THE REBUILDING – THE SACRIFICES
The Situation in June, 1843
Magnitude of Undertaking
The Disruption having taken place under the circumstances already described, we are now to follow the Church when, no longer aided by State endowments, she suddenly found herself involved in all the difficulties of disestablishment. Outwardly, in the view of the world, the overthrow had been complete. All was lost, save the great cause for which she had contended, and which now more than ever she was bound to maintain at the cost of new sacrifices and efforts. It was not long till these additional demands began to make themselves severely felt. Before two months had passed, hundreds of thousands of the Scottish people had joined her communion; the numbers were increasing, and church-building on an extensive scale was immediately required. Six hundred and sixty-seven ministers and preachers were henceforth dependent on the contributions of the people. The entire staff of missions to Jew and Gentile must be sustained. A college had to be provided, where Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Welsh might continue their labours in training students of divinity for the service of the Church. On behalf of the expelled teachers, and for other reasons, a whole system of elementary schools was seen to be necessary. It soon appeared that manses must be built, for it was impossible to leave ministers and their families in such dwellings as have been described. A fund was also needed for the aged and infirm ministers, and another for the widows and orphans of the manse; while, to meet the whole of these and other similar requirements, the Church had absolutely nothing but the free-will offerings of her people.
If men could have paused to estimate the magnitude of such demands coming upon a portion of the Scottish people hitherto little accustomed to the habit of giving, the enterprise might well have seemed utterly hopeless. But there was no time to pause. The call of duty was plain. These things had to be done, and men felt that they must arise, and by the help of God meet as best they might the difficulties of the crisis.
Difficult enough certainly the struggle would have proved even if the hostility of the Church’s adversaries had been appeased and had given way, in view of the great sacrifices to which she had submitted. Unfortunately, instead of being left at liberty to do her best in the circumstances, she continued for long to be assailed and thwarted by formidable opposition from various influential quarters.
It is not desirable after so many years to reopen the full details of those grievances and hardships, but it is obvious that if a just estimate is to be formed of the Free Church, and if the lessons of her experience amidst the difficulties of disestablishment are to be read aright, some account must be given not only of her efforts and sacrifices, but of the persistent opposition in the face of which her work had to be done.
It is the rebuilding of the Church, then, that the following pages are intended to describe – the rearing up of her external framework on the old foundations, after the overthrow of the Disruption. No attempt, indeed, can be made to give a full history of the time; the materials in the hands of the Committee are as yet far too imperfect to allow of this being done. It will be enough if the extracts and incidents here recorded shall serve in some degree to recall the general aspect of those busy years. With thankfulness we shall have to speak of help received in the hour of need – of the friends who were raised up – of the generous aid sent from foreign lands – and still more, of what was done by the zeal and self-sacrifice of the Church’s own members at home. But in the multiplicity of these details there is one thing which must never be forgotten, – the sacredness of the great cause for which all was done and suffered – the spiritual independence of the Church under her Divine Head. And not less must we in humble thankfulness recognise the hand of God leading His people forward step by step – often by a way which they knew not – till, amidst innumerable tokens of blessing, the Church has risen into the position which this day she is permitted to occupy. Surely in the retrospect of all that has been done and suffered, her members may well unite their efforts and their prayers, that, knowing the day of her visitation, the Free Church of Scotland may prove faithful to the high trust which has been given into her hands.
Temporary Places of Worship
Meeting-houses lent by Dissenters
Other Curious Expedients
Communion at Helmsdale
Wide Sowing of the Gospel Seed
When the time for parting came in 1843, and the parish churches were left, the first object was to obtain temporary accommodation for the worship of God. Different methods were taken according to circumstances, and nothing in the whole history of that period is more remarkable than the strange variety of expedients which suggested themselves to the people in different parts of the country. The details may in many cases seem simple and trivial, but they serve at least to bring into view the exigencies of the time and the difficulties in which our congregations were often placed.
As was natural, wherever there were disused places of worship, they were at once applied for, and in some instances they passed by lease or purchase into the hands of the Free Church. The Independent Church at Banchory-Ternan,264 for example, was fitted up anew for public worship, and opened on the 21st of May, three days after the Disruption. At Kirriemuir,265 an unoccupied Relief church was rented. In the village of Keith, Strathbogie, there were two Secession churches, and one of them, on a vacancy occurring, was sold to the Non-intrusionists. At Ellon,266 Aberdeenshire, where “it would have been very difficult to procure a site, the way was made plain by a small chapel, with ground for enlargement, having been sold to the Free Church by a small body of Independents, most of whom united themselves to the new congregation.”
Perhaps the most remarkable case of this kind was at Greenock, where the Gaelic congregation were accommodated in the very last place that could have been expected – one of the old Established churches of the town. “The old West Kirk at the foot of Nicholson Street had been lying in a ruinous condition since the transference of the Rev. Dr. M’Farlan’s congregation to the new parish church in Nelson Street in May, 1841. It had been formally condemned by the Presbytery, so far back as 16th October, 1837, as quite unfit for a place of worship, and being allowed to fall into a state of utter decay, it was at this time the very picture of desolation. But it occurred to some of the Gaelic people that if it could be procured temporarily, and the dust which lay deep on pulpit and pew cleared away, some slight repairs to the windows and roof would make it habitable until a new church could be erected. Application was accordingly made to the late David Crawford, Esq., then baron bailie, for permission to occupy it for a time, which was granted in the most courteous manner by that gentleman, so that the congregation worshipped there undisturbed for rather more than twelve months.”267
Apart, however, from such exceptional cases, the common arrangement in towns was, that Dissenting congregations, at much inconvenience to themselves, gave the use of their churches at separate hours, and the cordial spirit with which this was done should not be forgotten. Three weeks before the Disruption, Dr. Lindsay Alexander at Edinburgh wrote to his neighbour, Dr. Charles Brown: “It gives me much pleasure to be able to inform you that last night, at one of the fullest church meetings at which I ever presided, it was agreed unanimously that the use of our place of worship should be offered to you and your congregation for such time as you might require it after leaving your present place.
“I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of saying that the decision was come to last night by our church without so much as one individual intimating doubt, difficulty, or dissent; and I was especially requested to say to you that we felt it to be a privilege to be enabled to show, in this way, our fraternal regard for those who are acting so conscientious a part as that which you and your brethren are pursuing.”268
At Perth, it is stated by the congregation of St. Leonard’s: “We met for public worship for the first time in our separate capacity in the Original Secession Meeting-House, which was kindly offered for the purpose after their forenoon’s service was over. But this house being too small for the large numbers in attendance, the two large meeting-houses belonging to the United Secession Church were, the following week, also promptly and unanimously offered for our accommodation at meetings of the managers of the respective congregations, which we gladly and gratefully accepted. The hours were so arranged as to suit all parties as conveniently as possible, but the North Secession Congregation put themselves to peculiar inconvenience on our account.”269
Thus it was that, in cases far too numerous to mention, Free Church congregations found welcome at the hands of their brethren. The intercourse which followed did much to smooth away any asperities arising from former conflicts, and instances were not wanting in which kindly feelings were fittingly expressed. At Dunblane, on the 14th December, a deputation of ladies connected with the Free Church, headed by Mr. Mackenzie, their minister, and Mr. Cross, sheriff-substitute, waited on the minister of the United Secession, and in name of the congregation, presented Mrs. Henderson with two solid silver salvers as an expression of “high gratification arising from the pastoral and Christian intercourse that has been maintained by the ministers and people of these respective congregations since the period of the Disruption.”270
In rural parishes it was usually arranged that some friendly farmer should give the use of his barn. At Garvald, East Lothian, Mr. Dodds “preached in a barn, which had been kindly granted and fitted up as a temporary place of worship, to overflowing audiences. … There could not be less than nearly five hundred persons present.”271
At Bowden, Roxburghshire, on the 4th June, the Rev. Thos. Jolly preached “in a large barn in the village at the usual hour. The place of meeting was so densely crowded that considerably above a hundred were unable to gain admittance.”272
“In a barn,” at Flisk, Fifeshire, Mr. Taylor states, “under the shadow of the Castle of Criech, which belonged in a former age to a branch of the Beaton family, we met on the first Sabbath after the Disruption. We had much anxiety before coming to the place of meeting; but all our fears were removed when we found the place quite full.”273
A remarkable case was that of Mr. Stirling, of Cargill. We formerly saw his appearance as leader of the Presbytery of Dunkeld, when he stood up at the bar of the Court of Session to be rebuked. The reader may be interested in seeing him again in other circumstances when on the road to his barn. “The parish church of Cargill was vacated on the 4th June by its venerable pastor, who preached to his much attached flock, to the extent of eight hundred, in a barn belonging to Mr. James Irving, of Newbiggings. The place was found much too small, but those who could not be accommodated inside, cheerfully joined in the praise standing round the door. After solemn prayer that the Father of all would perfect His strength in their weakness, the reverend gentleman delivered an impressive discourse with a fervency which caused deep emotion, and tears started to many an eye not accustomed to weep, on beholding their aged pastor, who had broke the Bread of Life amongst them for thirty-four years, forsaking all earthly benefits, that he might be at liberty to preach the Word of God in its purity, beyond the pale of an Erastianised Establishment. … When the hour of worship arrived, the people from the surrounding cottages were seen in crowds thoughtfully wending their way to the place of meeting, and in the midst, their aged and venerated pastor bearing the sacred volume beneath his arm.“274
Such examples will show what was taking place in hundreds of localities over the country. The writer can never forget his own experience at Kinneff, where his friend, Mr. Hector, of Fernyflatt, tenant of the largest farm in the parish, had his barn seated, so as to form a commodious place of worship – this being only one of many kind services rendered to his minister and the congregation of which he was a devoted and zealous member.
Barns, however, with sufficient accommodation were not always to be had, and a great variety of other expedients had to be resorted to.
At Berriedale, in Caithness, the congregation obtained the use of a cottage – an old schoolhouse. After trying for a considerable time to meet in the open air, by permission of the factor they took possession of this cottage, enlarged it for the purpose, and used it for many years, till in 1857 their church was built – the only subject of regret being, that the factor was dismissed, losing his situation, as was believed, because of the considerate kindness he had showed to the people.275
In the village of Muthill, Perthshire, a hall was obtained. There was a Mason-lodge in the village, which would have given more ample accommodation, but the parish minister, of unhappy memory, had secured a lease of it for a year, so as to exclude the Free Church. “One other hall alone could be obtained, and the tenant let it to us almost under the ban of his superiors. We took out one of the windows, and when the hall filled, the rest of the people sat in a court-yard, and I preached to them out of the window. There was not another spot about Muthill, within or out of doors, on which we durst meet for the first two months.”276
At Monquhitter, Aberdeenshire, the congregation obtained, as a temporary place of worship, a temperance hall in the village of Cuminestown, “which was providentially in process of building, and nearly completed at the Disruption, so that we had to worship only for three Sabbaths in the open air.”277
At St. David’s, Dundee, it was an old abandoned mill that was got, “in the lower flat of which we found refuge until a new church was erected.”278
Mr. Melville, an adherent of the Establishment at Torryburn, granted Mr. Doig and his congregation the use – rent free – of a shed attached to his place of business, for worship, fitting up the same gratuitously with a pulpit and seats. Four-fifths of the communicants adhered with Mr. D. to the Free Church.279
There were special difficulties at Stanley, Perthshire, and they were met in an unexpected way. The large factory and most of the village belonged to a manufacturing firm who made no secret of their hostility, forbidding the use of all the rooms and halls. But if there was no place for the Free Church in the halls of the manufacturers, room was found in a stable. “The year before the Disruption, James M’Gregor, Esq., a gentleman who had made a fortune in America, came home to Stanley, his native district, intending to settle there for life, and for his accommodation he built a very large stable for six horses, with hay-loft above, &c. But it was no sooner completed than the commercial convulsions in America required his presence again in that country; and Mr. M’Gregor being friendly to the Free Church, this house was placed at our disposal; and with some slight alterations, it afforded accommodation and shelter to the congregation until our church was built, and it still continues  to be used by us as a schoolroom. But for this building, though the builders little imagined that they were rearing a dwelling to shelter a church of Christ, the Free Church must have worshipped from May till March next year in the open air.”280
At Fairlie, near Largs, Mr. Gemmel on leaving his church retired to a schoolroom, which had been built at a cost of nearly £200 by Mr. Parker and Mr. Tennent, of Wellpark, two members of the Free Church. They had, however, neglected to obtain a lease from the Earl of Glasgow, on whose ground the schoolhouse stood; and availing himself of this legal technicality, his lordship resolved to seize the property. On the following Saturday evening the factor appeared along with a notary-public, to prohibit Mr. Gemmel from again entering the building. The congregation, accordingly, had to retire to the stable at Fairlie Lodge. Mrs. Parker had the place fitted up, and supplied with forms, and she placed in it the pulpit that had belonged to the well-known Rev. W. Scoresby, F.R.S., of Mariner’s Church, Liverpool, which had come into her possession. There the congregation continued to worship for nine months, and there they were engaged in celebrating the Sacrament of the Supper on the second Sabbath of February, at the time when Mr. Gemmel’s former church, after being locked up for three months, was reopened by the Established Presbytery. Mr. Gemmel, writing in 1876, and referring to the winter when they worshipped in the stable, states: “There, exposed to open doors and draughts, I received a severe cold, from which I have never entirely recovered.”281
At Langton, Berwickshire, a spacious granary was fitted up as a place of worship by the Dowager-Marchioness of Breadalbane. Forty-five years previously it had been used in a similar way while a new parish church was being built; and some of the parishioners who had worshipped in it on that occasion were there once more to take part in the service. The Dowager-Marchioness, with her cousin, Lady Hannah Tharp, were regular worshippers; and it was interesting to see the Marquis, when on a visit, taking his place on the same benches with the rest of the people, after assisting one of the elders, who was in infirm health, into the place of honour which had been prepared for himself.
When the Disruption took place, Mr. Miller, of Monikie, “could obtain no suitable site for building a church, his personal application to the first Lord Panmure, of whom he was an intimate friend, having been refused. He obtained a meeting-place for his congregation in a grain-loft at Affleck. … At the time of the Disruption, Mr. Miller had begun to be touched by the infirmities of age; and there can be no doubt that his health and strength were still further impaired by the extremely cold and uncomfortable place of worship in which the congregation met, just under the slates, and without windows. It was only after the accession to the title and estates of the present Earl of Dalhousie that the congregation were provided with a place of worship and the minister with a manse. This was nine years after the Disruption.”282
At Fort-Augustus, it was not till the 28th of March, 1844, that the foundation-stone of the Free Church was laid. Previously the congregation had assembled in a large malt-barn from the time of the Disruption.283
At Campbeltown, the Gaelic congregation found accommodation (4th June, 1843) at the distillery of Messrs. John Grant & Co. A large court belonging to the works had been “almost completely covered in with a wooden roof in a day and a half by the Highlanders themselves. From 1500 to 2000 gathered, and patiently endured the cold rather than desert their ministers or their cause. The place was crowded.”284
A still more remarkable transformation took place at Symington, in Ayrshire. “The very day after I left the old church the elders and others set to work to find a temporary place of worship, and they fortunately secured for that purpose an old public-house, which was then empty. They took down all its partitions, threw all its rooms into one, had it all seated by the following Sabbath, and it was sufficiently large to hold a good congregation. I preached there for nine months with great comfort and satisfaction. My pulpit was an old door laid across two small tressles, and upon it a table and chair; and it was the finest pulpit I ever occupied. It was so near the people, they were all seated around and in front of it, and as they were at that time so eager to hear the Gospel, I believe I never preached with greater effect or with more acceptance.”285
Among the fishing population it sometimes happened that the only available building was a herring-store. Thus at Keiss, it is said – For the first four months after the Disruption they worshipped in a barn, but when harvest came, and the barn was required for farm purposes, they had to retire to a herring storehouse, “in a compartment of which public worship was carried on, and wherein to this day  the people assemble.”286
In similar circumstances was the Lord’s Supper dispensed at Helmsdale, on the 26th November, 1843. “To keep within bounds, the congregation must have been from 2200 to 2400, which was considered a great number for this season of the year. There was house accommodation for about 1400 in a curing-yard and stores, the front of which is closed in with deals. Some of the deals were removed to enable those outside to see and hear. The scene was solemn and affecting. So eager were the people to listen to the Gospel preached, that those outside waited patiently from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.”287
At the Disruption, two-thirds of the parishioners at Burghead followed Mr. Waters to the green, where he conducted public worship for some time. By-and-by two granaries – a lower and an upper floor – were rented, in which, ill-adapted though they were for the purpose, public worship was conducted on ordinary Sabbath days, while the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was dispensed in a herring-curing shed until the Free Church was built. 288
The Rev. Gustavus Aird could get no site at Croich; but one of the sheep farmers, George Murray, Esq., of Rosemount, “kindly offered to me the cottage on the farm for a dwelling, and also grass for a cow and horse, and the use of the large wool-barn for the congregation as a place of worship, with the exception of a few weeks in July, when it was filled with wool.”289
At Oyne, Aberdeenshire, the only place of worship allowed to the minister and people is a large cart-shed, with a wooden addition to it, which neither excludes the summer shower nor the winter’s snow. It was pitiful during the winter [of 1844] to see the old people sitting in this cold place of worship, and the snow drifting about them; and even the young people dismissed from their Bible classes on account of the cold.290
In this way, wherever existing buildings could furnish the needful accommodation, they were turned to account, without waiting for a moment to consider how far their ordinary uses might be in harmony with the sacred purpose for which they were employed. Under the pressure of necessity as the people then were, outward appearances were of small account.
But there were cases of still greater difficulty where no existing accommodation, even of the humblest kind, could be obtained, and where various shifts and expedients had to be tried.
Sometimes wooden churches were erected. Thus at Largo, Mr. Brown and his people were allowed for two Sabbaths to occupy the parish schoolroom; but “knowing that this was to be refused for longer use, we instantly raised a wooden erection, called ‘The Tabernacle,’ very deficient in the shelter it afforded, and we continued to worship there until the permanent building could be got ready.”291
For three Sabbaths the congregation at Woodside, Aberdeen met in the open air, on the school-ground. After that, a large temporary wooden building, seated for 1500 persons, being completed in the immediate neighbourhood, they removed thither on Sabbath, the 26th June. The number at the first dispensation of the Lord’s Supper, July 2, amounted to 1351 communicants.292
For two years, says Mr. Grant, of Ayr, “we worshipped in a wooden church behind Alloway Place, which was opened by the Rev. Dr. Gordon, of Edinburgh, in October, 1843. It was infested by beetles, earwigs, and mice, annoyed by drops of rain in wet weather, and of pitch in hot summer days. Yet these were the months to which I have referred “as a time of special blessing.293
How rapidly these wooden structures could be put together, was seen in the case of Rhynie before the Disruption. The people had great difficulty in obtaining a site, and it was not till after very considerable delay that a suitable one was procured. “They were quite willing to put up, for a time, with temporary accommodation; and, accordingly, they formed a plan, which was successfully carried out, and with so much secrecy, that those who were opposed had not the slightest idea of what was going on. It was on a Saturday morning, if I recollect aright, that the congregation, and some of their friends from a distance, assembled at a very early hour. The necessary materials were brought in carts from a little distance to a small plot of ground out of the village, where it was believed they would not be interfered with; and such was the activity displayed, that before the shades of evening fell, they had a plain but substantial wooden church erected, in which they worshipped on the following day. There were no railways in those days, and no telegraphic communication, so that there was no time to send to Aberdeen for an interdict, had any attempt been made to obtain it.”294
The example thus set was followed at a subsequent period in the neighbouring parish of Bellie. The town-hall of Fochabers was put at the disposal of the congregation, and occupied for two Sabbaths; but so many had to remain outside for want of room, that it was resolved to erect a wooden church to contain 400 or 500 hearers. On Tuesday, June 9, the parishioners commenced the work; and on Saturday a band of fifty carpenters having come up from Garmouth and volunteered their services, the whole was finished that night. The materials were carted to the ground, and the work carried on and completed free of any charge. 295
At Kirkhill, where Gaelic as well as English services were required, a similar lively scene is described: “A site for the church having been kindly granted by John Fraser, Esq., on his property of Achnagairn, and Mr. John M’Lennan, merchant, Beauly, having handsomely presented manufactured timber for a place of worship, on Tuesday the people assembled and gave their gratuitous aid in erecting the building. During that and the four following days, successive relays of workmen arrived, carrying their tools with them, there being seldom less than from fifty to sixty men on the spot, some clearing the ground of whins and stones, and levelling it for the Gaelic congregation. On Saturday morning the preaching box was set up, and it was most interesting to witness the people coming from all quarters of the parish, and many from the neighbouring parishes, carrying forms on their shoulders, and anxiously placing them in favourable situations near the pulpit. On Saturday night the wooden church was likewise finished, neatly seated, and the pulpit erected. On Sabbath forenoon Mr. Fraser preached in Gaelic to a congregation of about two thousand, and in the afternoon in English in the church, to about four hundred, the people being densely crowded, and many being disappointed in obtaining admission.”296
It was not to be wondered at if these wooden erections, owing to their homely appearance, were occasionally made the subject of sarcastic remark. A story is told of a meeting of farmers in the north, chiefly belonging to the Moderate party, where a member of the Free Church who happened to be present was asked, “How are ye getting on with your wooden kirks?” When the laugh which followed this question had subsided, he replied – “Oh, very well; but how are you getting on with your wooden ministers?” It must be confessed that these churches, intended only for temporary purposes, were often sufficiently humble, and yet there were cases in which, despite their lowly appearance, marks of respect were not withheld. The congregation of Dr. Macintosh, of Tain, accompanied him out with very few exceptions. “They met with him in a wooden building, hurriedly erected, even the magistrates of the town, preceded by their red-coated, halbert-armed officers, walking in procession, and taking their place of honour in the Free, as they were wont to do in the Established Church.”297
The most interesting of these scenes, however, were the fields and hillsides, and glens, where congregations unable to find shelter met under the open canopy of heaven. A few cases will be sufficient to show the circumstances under which such gatherings were held.
After preaching his farewell sermon at Farr, Mr. Mackenzie states: “Monday, 12th June, we kept our prayer meeting in the open air, and on the 15th we observed the fast appointed by our Free Assembly, and henceforward, until December following, we met for public worship in the field, taking the most sheltered spots we could find.” The reader will have no difficulty in understanding how, in the month of November, on the shores of the Northern Ocean, while meeting in the open air, it was necessary to take “the most sheltered spots” they could find. Mr. Mackenzie mentions thankfully that after December they were “allowed, unmolested, … to fit up a gravel-pit, where we had our canvas tent for a year.”298
The state of mind in which the poor Highlanders of these northern parishes were during that season may be inferred from a statement made by Mr. Carment, of Rosskeen, in the month of November, 1843. “Old as I am, and lame through rheumatism, I lately travelled through Sutherlandshire and part of Argyllshire.”… On visiting one of the parishes “we asked the people, ‘Where’s the tent [a kind of pulpit] to preach in, for we saw none near us; and what, think you, was the people’s answer?’ ‘Oh, Mr. _____ [the Factor] is here just now, and the tent’s away up there’ – pointing to a hill half as high as Ben Ledi or Ben Lomond, and more fitted for an eagle’s eyrie than for a preaching place. ‘We put it up there as we are afraid it should be seen.’ ‘Monstrous!’ said I; ‘how do you expect me ever to get up there? I’m not able to climb.’ ‘Oh, sir,’ they said, ‘we’ll get a horse for you.’ ‘Impossible,’ said I, ‘neither horse nor man will ever get up there.’ And so they had to send up messengers and bring the people down, and I preached to them in the open air at the bottom of the hill.”299
Hugh Miller writes, on the 9th of July: “I have just returned from Helmsdale, where I have been hearing sermon in the open air with the poor Highlanders. … The congregation was numerous – from six to eight hundred at least – and all seemed serious and attentive. It must have been the power of association, but I thought their Gaelic singing, so plaintive at all times, even more melancholy than usual.”300
But such scenes were not confined to the North. At Humbie, East Lothian, Mr. Dodds states: “On Sabbath, 11th June, I preached at Upper Keith in front of the schoolhouse, from a wooden tent, to a large and attentive congregation. … Having had reason to believe that several of the heritors, all of whom, ten in number, were hostile to the Free Church, were about to take steps to prevent me from preaching a second time at the schoolhouse, though it was only by the highwayside, I was obliged to look out for another place of meeting for next Sabbath. A wright in the village of Upper Keith, an elder in the Secession Church, offered me the use of his woodyard, but the farmer from whom he rented it – Mr. _____, of _____, a man on whom and whose family I had been able to confer repeated obligations – interfered to prevent me from receiving that accommodation. I was at a loss what to do, when I heard that Mr. Lawson, tenant at Humbie Mains, also an elder in the Secession Church, was willing to allow us to meet on his farm, in a deep and wooded glen or ravine, called Humbie Dean. By the kind permission of Mr. Lawson, we continued to meet at that place during the whole summer, till our new church was finished.”
So also at Lesmahagow in the west, Dr. Parker writes: “Our ordinary meetings for public worship were held in a field, … kindly granted for the purpose by Mr. Robert Frame, surgeon, a member of the Establishment. This field was admirably adapted for the object, having a gentle slope, and being surrounded on three sides by trees, which afforded partial shelter. Many a happy Sabbath we spent here under the open canopy of heaven, and here also was dispensed, on the first occasion after the Disruption, the holy ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, with circumstances of peculiar solemnity, which many, I believe, will remember to their dying hour. On the green grass was the table spread, and all around were the congregation gathered, some on chairs or rustic seats which they had brought, others on the bare ground. The service commenced at half-past ten o’clock, and continued without intermission till near five.”… After the interval of an hour, Dr. Hanna preached the evening sermon from Hebrews 6:19.301
It is obvious that congregations compelled to worship in the open air in such a climate as that of Scotland must have met with no little discomfort, and indeed danger to life and health, but never was the goodness of God more conspicuously seen. From all parts of the country there are found in the Disruption Mss. expressions of wonder and thankfulness for the unexampled fineness of the weather during the whole summer and autumn of 1843. Generally throughout the bounds of the Free Church this had been the subject of much prayer, even in congregations who had themselves found shelter, and it afterwards appeared that among the Nonconformist Churches of England, many a fervent supplication had been offered up on behalf of their Scottish brethren. There is hardly a district, accordingly, from which we have not impressive and grateful acknowledgments of the goodness of God in connection with the fair bright Sabbaths given during those months of exposure.
Mr. Campbell, of Berriedale, Caithness, states: “I preached during the winter and spring of 1843-4, from October till May, and was not once interrupted by a shower of rain or snow all that time, and I preached almost always in the open air. Such a circumstance would seem to me incredible had I not experienced it. … I could not but look upon it as an evidence of God’s approval of our conduct, in separating from the Establishment in the circumstances.”302
At Cromarty, Hugh Miller writes: “There has been much rain of late, and it has been of great use and greatly needed, but scarce any of it fell during the time of divine service on the Sabbath. In his prayer, Mr. Stewart made appropriate mention of a goodness which could be at once favourable to exposed congregations and to the concerns of the husbandman.”303
In the neighbourhood of Perth, it is mentioned by Dr. Grierson: “Till the very week before the event [the Disruption], the weather had been unusually wet, but from that week, and for four months and a-half afterwards, there was not a single Sabbath on which it rained.”304
Close to the water-shed, between the valleys of the Tay and Forth, Mr. Grant, of Braco, writes: “I took particular notice of the weather … and I found by a correct calculation that fifteen Sabbaths elapsed after the Disruption before even a shower fell to the inconvenience of worshippers during divine service.”305
“Divine Providence remarkably interposed in behalf, not only of this congregation [Roslin], but also of many other congregations of the Free Church, by sending favourable weather on the day of holy rest, even when the state of the weather on the other days of the week did not warrant such an expectation.”306
And it was the same at Ruthwell, near the borders of Scotland, on the south-west. “The first really stormy Sabbath after we became houseless we were able to take shelter under the new roof, and seated on planks to worship, while wind and rain beat without. This was in October. During the summer the threatening skies had called forth more petitions for weather tempered to our circumstances than ever we had used before. In one instance we had so tempestuous a morning that we feared it would be impossible to meet. The storm became a calm in good time, a»d as I set out for the Sabbath school … the sun shone out. When church time came the wind had dried even the turf on which we sat, and many enjoyed the Word of Life the more that our comfortable position in hearing it was regarded thankfully as an answer to prayer.”307
But remarkable as all this was, the climate had showed enough of its fickleness to remind the hearers how much they were dependent on the special and gracious care of God.
Thus at Lesmahagow, Dr. Parker states: “During many consecutive Sabbaths of the summer of 1843, scarcely a drop of rain fell. … On one Sabbath in the month of August the case was otherwise. While the service was going on a dark cloud gradually overspread the sky, and the rain began to fall. I persevered for a time, but at last the rain became so heavy and the sound of its pattering on the umbrellas so loud, as almost to drown my voice, and … as Mr. Logan’s place of worship was that day unoccupied, we adjourned to it, and concluded the service within its walls. … My pulpit Bible was spotted and injured in the part which happened to be open for exposition and exposed to the rain – the Epistle to the Galatians. These spots cannot be effaced, they will continue as long as the Bible lasts, a memorial of the day. On showing them to one of my elders, he remarked, they are scars in an honourable warfare.”308
At Crailing, Roxburghshire, not far from the Cheviot Hills, “there were many interesting incidents in connection with the services in the open air. On one occasion the people were assembled in a field, when suddenly the sky grew black and loud peals of thunder rolled over their heads. The preacher [Mr. Milroy] adapted his discourse to the circumstances, and dwelt on the solemnity of the voice of God. The people were then dismissed, and had only reached their homes when a most terrific storm burst over the whole neighbourhood, and lasted for the whole of that night.”309
“There has been a night of weighty rain,” Hugh Miller writes from Cromarty, on the morning of Sabbath, the 23rd July, “the streets have been swept clean, and the kennels show their accumulations of sand and mud high over their edges. I awoke several times during the night to hear the gush from the eaves, and the furious patter on the panes, and I thought of the many poor congregations in Scotland who would have to worship today in the open air. But the rain is now over, and a host of ragged clouds are careering over the heavens before a strong easterly gale.”
“I do begrudge the Moderates our snug comfortable churches. I begrudge them my father’s pew. It bears date 1741, and has been held by the family through times of poverty and depression, a sort of memorial of better days, when we could afford getting a pew in the front gallery. But yonder it lies empty, within an empty church, a place for spiders to spin undisturbed, while all who should be occupying it take their places on stools and forms in the factory close.”310
As the season went on the perils of out-door exposure began to be more severely felt. The Rev. Mr. Logan, of Lawers, who was appointed by the Free Presbytery of Breadalbane “to preach to the adhering people in Rannoch last Sabbath [15th October], could find nowhere to address them, save on the shore of the loch. It was the most inclement day we have had this season, and twice during the service did the wind reach such a height that the preacher could not hear his own voice, and it is no weak one, while the spray was ever and anon falling among the congregation.”311
It was to escape such risks that the wooden churches already described were put up; but the expense was often greater than could be met in the face of other demands, and simpler expedients had to be tried. Perhaps the simplest of all was one mentioned in the Witness newspaper: “We have lately heard of a friendly farmer in the west who, in gratitude to God for the abundant harvest, has arranged the stacks in his stack-yard in a circle, so that the sheltered space within may accommodate the Free Church of his parish.”312 In rendering this service to the congregation, he evidently acted under the feeling expressed in another part of the country by one of the parishioners of Muckhart, a man in humble circumstances. “Happening,” says Mr. Thomson, “one day when I called upon him, to remark on the number of carriages driven by the farmers in the parish to the building of the church [carting of materials], in addition to their direct contributions, he said, ‘But, sir, they have gotten it all back again.’ Supposing that he alluded to spiritual benefits, I added, ‘I hope they have.’ His answer was: ‘Yes, sir, God has given them it all back again in giving them such a harvest. They have not been called upon to turn a stook, nor yet have they had to complain of a spoiled sheaf. When had we such a harvest?'”313
In various localities tents were procured. It was a remarkable example of the law of demand and supply, that before the first Assembly of the Free Church rose, a London manufacturing firm had a specimen tent pitched close to Tanfield, and were ready to take orders. The objection in this case also was, that the expense was greater than was warrantable for a merely temporary purpose. There were parishes, however, in which they were employed.
“At first we worshipped in the open air on a green at the end of the village [Collace]. … Thereafter a kind friend in Dundee, who had been interested in the congregation because of the lamented Mr. M’Cheyne’s connection with their pastor, provided for us a spacious canvas tent, under the roof of which we worshipped till our new church was ready to receive us. During all the time we were in this tent not a shower of rain ever annoyed us; once only there were a few drops in the time of public worship. And this was the case also in regard to our week-day meetings in it, as well as Sabbaths. The weather was so remarkable that many observed it, and it was made a matter of public thanksgiving. What led to the more impressive observation of this matter was the fact that in the following summer the weather was altogether unlike the preceding, many of the Sabbaths being wet and stormy; while, on the other hand, the Sabbath days which followed the Disruption were so favourable to us in our tent, that the first day of wind and rain was the very day in which we found ourselves able to meet under the roof of the new church, which, though not seated, was sufficiently ready to afford us comfortable accommodation.”314
In the parish of Forgandenny, Mr. Drummond states: “During the summer of 1843 we worshipped under a canvas tent in the corner of a small field which lies immediately to the south of the Established manse. That field, with a dwelling-house upon it, had belonged to my immediate predecessor, Mr. Willison. It consisted of two acres. In his will he left it to aid in supporting a small school at the Path of Condie. It was to be occupied by the parish minister in all time coming, at a moderate rent, to be fixed by his executors, who were to be four of the principal heritors. I accordingly occupied it till the term of Martinmas, 1843, and could not be dispossessed till then. There we pitched our humble tent, and continued to hold public worship as well as our weekly prayer meetings, till the church was ready to receive us. Had I not possessed that field, I verily believe we should not have been allowed to worship on the road side. For a while many of the people had a good deal to endure in resorting to that spot. Two ways led to it, and there two of the heritors took their stand for a number of Sabbaths, watching and even threatening those who ventured to pass them. Such conduct, however, only tended to confirm and embolden the adhering people.”315
In other cases the parishioners, instead of procuring ready-made tents, fitted them up for themselves.
On Sabbath, 11th June, Mr. Thomson, of Yester, preached in the large room of the inn at Gifford to an audience of upwards of 400. As this place of meeting could not be used with safety, and as no barn or other place of worship could be procured for the adhering congregation, it was resolved to erect a tent; but instead of purchasing one from London, a village wright was employed. Two cart-loads of wood-thinnings316 were kindly sent by John Martine, Esq. of Moreham Bank; and with these the walls were formed. Unbleached cloth was got from Edinburgh to cover the walls, and stronger material from Dundee to form the roof. Care was taken to have ventilation without draughts, and in the course of a week, it is said, the place was ready, capable of containing very comfortably 500 persons; and it has been crowded ever since. During the late very severe rains it was not affected in the smallest degree. And to crown all, the entire cost will hardly amount to £17, while already the minister has been offered half-price for the materials when he has got his new church erected.
“It was situated in a very pleasant and romantic spot, beside a running stream and waterfall, the sound of which suggested to a worthy lady the place by the river-side, ‘where prayer was wont to be made,’ and where Lydia ‘attended unto the things spoken by Paul.'”317
At even an earlier date, similar steps had been taken at Blairgowrie, the following account of which we give at length, along with the various incidents that occurred in connection with the tent: –
“We had been over in Edinburgh attending the never-to-be-forgotten Assembly of May, 1843, and returned home on Friday, the 2nd June, reaching the manse in the course of the afternoon. The first object which greeted our view was a large tent that had been erected in our absence, on a piece of ground adjoining the glebe-field; conspicuous from the manse, and still more so from the only road leading up to the Established Church; so that it was impossible to go there without beholding this speaking testimony of the people’s faithfulness to the crown rights of the Redeemer. It was put up while we were in Edinburgh at the General Assembly, begun and finished in about two days, and capable of containing nearly a thousand people – a labour of love, in which many willing hands and loving hearts helped. And it will ever be associated in our memory as a sanctuary which God hallowed by His presence – making it a birthplace of souls, and greatly refreshing His people. We owed it mainly to the kindness of our dear elder, Mr. John Thain, shipowner in Dundee. He it was who furnished us with sail-cloth sufficient for its covering; and, when finished, with its patchwork cover of black and white sails, a thinner piece of canvas round the sides serving as walls, windows, and blinds, we thought it a wonderful structure. The site had been chosen and materials for its erection laid down a day or two before we went to the Assembly. And when Sir William Chalmers, of Glen Ericht, one of our heritors, beheld these sure indications of the coming separation, he called at the manse and, with deep emotion, said, ‘Oh, Mr. Macdonald, is it really come to this! Can nothing be done to save the Disruption?’ Although an Episcopalian, he was deeply concerned at the breaking-up of the Establishment; and when afterwards some of the Moderate party tried to prevent our having a bell to our Free Church, he resisted the movement, and said, ‘If they stop the bell, I shall send down my own gong.’
“Wearied by all the exciting scenes through which we had passed, we were glad to retire to rest. Next morning, shortly after breakfast, a deputation of our people came to the manse with a request that we would allow them to flit us, adding, that as the minister would on the morrow be in his new church, they would like him also to be in his new house. To this we could not agree, things were not in a state for so summary a removal; and the confusion we felt would be all the greater, as the manse was large, whereas our new abode was simply three rooms and a bedcloset in a new house built by one of our elders, who very kindly gave up these rooms for our use, whilst his own family occupied the rest, the kitchen being used between us; and we could not imagine how all our furniture could be got stowed away. Besides, it was Saturday, and we dreaded the impossibility of getting all settled before night. In vain, however, did we reason. They continued still to urge, until at length we consented, and in a few minutes men, women, and children fell to work, and Saturday, by night, we were fairly settled in our new house – nor was a single thing missing, nor aught in any way injured. The only martyr to principle was our poor cat. So strongly was she attached to the manse, that no means could prevail on her to leave it; and there is reason to fear that she came to an untimely end.
“Sabbath, the 4th June, was our first in our new tent-church; and truly it was one of the most solemn, sweet, and blessed Sabbaths we ever enjoyed. At an early hour the tent was completely filled. It was seated for nearly 1000 people; but as forms were placed all round outside also, the number assembled was very large. There was just one door of entrance, with a long, narrow passage leading to the pulpit at the other end. Seats neatly covered with white cotton cloth were placed very close upon each other on both sides, with a piece of board under each, which, as every seat was filled, was drawn out and placed between the two opposite, so that there was no getting out or in till a general movement was made at the close of the service. The whole ground had been thickly laid over with sawdust; and when the minister entered, preceded by his glebe-servant, now transformed into his beadle, and with noiseless step walked up the long passage to the pulpit, the feelings of the people were stirred to their very depths, and many a tear stole silently down the cheek. At first, when the psalm was given out, no one joined – emotion choked their utterance; but at last a loud peal of praise burst forth, and the grand Old 100th Psalm was sung with intense gratitude and thanksgiving. The presence of the Lord was felt throughout the whole service – it seemed, indeed, the house of God and the very gate of heaven.
“At the close of the sermon a movement was made near the pulpit, and it was evident that some difficulty or other had occurred. This was soon explained. Two infants were to be presented for baptism; but as it was impossible they could be borne through the dense crowd, the question was how they could be got in. Happily the thought occurred of cutting the canvas near the pulpit, and through this somewhat novel entrance the little ones were handed in to the parents inside, and were baptised. One, if not both of these, are now heads of families. All the time we worshipped in the tent – about five or six months – God’s answers to prayer were most striking. Often on the Saturdays the rain poured in torrents, but by Sabbath the sun and wind were sent, and we worshipped in comfort.”318
There was one class of cases for which tents were held to be peculiarly adapted – those in which sites had been refused. The idea was, that as tents were movable, the people might carry their churches from place to place, in search of some spot where standing-ground could be had. As Mr. Dunlop stated in the first General Assembly, “Large tents had been provided which could hold about 500 people, and which did not weigh more than four hundredweight; so that they might be carried from place to place in a small cart or boat along the sea-shore from farm to farm, so that when driven from one quarter, the people might escape the tyranny by transporting them to another.”319
Occasionally this was put to the proof, as in the parish of Fortingal, Perthshire. “All the heritors were extremely hostile, so that no site could be obtained; a tent, however, was procured, and erected on the common hitherto used as a market-place. No sooner, however, did the laird, on whose property this common lies, get notice of what had taken place, than he immediately sent a peremptory order to have the tent removed. The good people of Fortingal immediately turned out and carried their tent shoulder-high over the River Lyon, and placed it safely on the land of the Marquis of Breadalbane.”320
In certain districts it is strange to think of the difficulties which had to be overcome before a footing could be obtained.
Sometimes the opposition came from the manse. “A minister in East Lothian wrote to the Earl of Haddington requesting him to prevent a tenant from giving the use of his barn to a Free Church minister, as he wished to keep him out of his parish. His Lordship replied, that he was not in the habit of interfering with the use which his tenants made of their barns, and that the true way to get the Free Churchman out of the parish was to preach him out.”321
In Fife, the Rev. Mr. Thomson, of St. Ninian’s, Leith, met with a yet more remarkable experience. “Early in the summer of 1843, I was sent by the Committee on the interim supply of ordinances to preach for three Sabbaths at St. Andrews, with instructions to preach on the intervening week evenings in all the neighbouring parishes. In these duties I derived valuable assistance from a band of devoted divinity students. Among other parishes my attention was directed to _____, the minister of which had been heard to declare that no Non-intrusionist should ever enter his parish. Arrangements had been made for a place of meeting; a farmer, who was a Dissenter, having at once, on being applied to, agreed to place his barn at our service. Accordingly we set out at the hour appointed. We had not gone far before we learned that adverse influence had been brought to bear upon the farmer, and that his barn was locked against us. We proceeded onward, hoping to find a spot where the service might be held in the open air. When a little farther on, we were met by a working man with a very kindly expression, who, on ascertaining our errand, entreated us not to go forward, as a party had been sent to St. Andrews by the minister’s son to purchase a large quantity of fireworks which were to be thrown at us. We thanked the man, but said we would face the fireworks. On arriving in the parish we found a large mass of people, eagerly waiting for us on the public road. We were told that no place could be got other than the public road, except one; ‘But,’ added our friend, ‘it is a wood-yard, and we cannot go there for fear of the fireworks.’ I replied at once, ‘It is the safest of all places, for though they may not hesitate to injure us, they may take care not to set a wood-yard in a blaze.’ We had a very quiet and enjoyable meeting, and though many efforts were made to get up a disturbance, so completely were all arrested and subdued, that I had a good opportunity of making a full statement of the principles of the Church. On returning to St. Andrews we met the fireworks on the road, but alas! they were too late.”322
Usually, however, it was the proprietor and his factor who were eager, if possible, to suppress the Free Church. In some cases even standing-ground was refused. “In the parish of Logie there is a large gravel-pit in a fir wood, in which on sacramental occasions the outdoor congregation used to assemble. At other times it is a famous resort of the gipsies. Their smoke may be seen rising over the trees six months in the year, and their rude tents pitched in a corner of the hollow. Some of the neighbouring farmers and cottars expressed a wish not very long ago, that persons so dangerous and disreputable should be prevented from making it a place of resort, but they were told by the proprietor’s doer to be kind to the gipsies and they would find them harmless. On the Disruption the minister of Logie respectfully applied for leave to erect his preaching tent in the hollow, in the expectation, fond man, of being permitted to rank with the gipsies. But alas, no! Tinkers may be patronised as picturesque, but the Free Church is dangerous, and so the use of the hollow was promptly and somewhat indignantly refused.”323
In the parish of Dunbeath the people were denied a site, but after worshipping during the summer in the open air, they bethought them as winter approached, of “erecting on a very extensive moss, a rude temporary structure composed of useless turf, such as boys tending cattle on the hills are accustomed to rear. Having witnessed the erection of many rude bothies for the sale of whisky, where it had been well for the temporal and spiritual interests of the tenants if such erections had been interdicted,” the people concluded that, driven as they were to this alternative, they would forthwith proceed to raise this shieling. They thought it right, however, to let the representative of the proprietor know of their intention, but the reply to the very humble request of the people was, that no such erection could be allowed – no shelter of any kind could be given to the adherents of the Free Church.324
At Menmuir, Forfarshire, the parishioners had to worship for a time in the open air. The village carpenter was willing to give the use of his workshop, but the consent of the landlord was necessary, and this was applied for in the most respectful and even humble terms. In answer, they were told that there was room in the parish church; that he, the proprietor, had no objection to let those of them who were his tenants resign their leases and go elsewhere. “Having given you unasked leave of becoming free, I must insist, if you do not take advantage of it, that you do nothing in future to attempt to intrude on my ground any promulgation of your peculiar views.” The local press called attention to the fact, that being himself an Episcopalian, the landlord declined to attend the church to which he wished to compel all his people to go, and added – “We do much mistake the spirit of the Menmuir people generally, if the … paltry persecution with which they are now visited do not make them cling closer to a church which is standing up for the civil as well as the spiritual freedom of the people.”325 This anticipation proved correct. The people stood fast, and the cause of the Free Church took firm root in the parish.
In the case of Edzell, another of these Forfarshire parishes, Lord Panmure, when the people applied for a site, refused their request in no gentle terms. Mr. Inglis, however, the outgoing minister, held a small piece of land on lease from his lordship, and there he had a tent erected, but not in the first instance so successfully as in the parishes already referred to. On Sabbath, the 4th June, he says: “I preached at the manse door from Titus 2:13, 14. Frail and infirm persons were taken into the rooms and passages of the manse so that they could hear, and a large congregation were seated upon hastily made forms and upon the grass at the door. I went into a private room sometime before the hour of worship, and my feelings were indescribable. I remember as the hour drew very near, that I was almost despairing of any one coming, when, just as the clock warned to strike, I heard the patter of a single coin fall into the plate which was near the window where I sat. I was in such a state of agitation that I could not look up to see who it was that put it in. Immediately there was the patter of another, then a continual patter patter patter, till I went out and stood at the table on which the Bible and Psalm-book had been placed. I did not miss many of the familiar faces that I had been accustomed to see in the church, but how different the surroundings. The beautiful grass on which many of the congregation were reclining, and the green hedge bounding the little lawn, the full-leaved trees skirting one side, the everlasting mountains in Lethnot and Lochlee, and the upper part of Edzell towering in the distance, and the bright midsummer sun shining down upon us in all his glory. This was the only difficulty which I provided against on future Sabbaths, by driving a pole into the ground, tying an outspread umbrella upon the top of it, and moving round so as to keep it between me and the sun. That sermon was not preached in vain. Many took notice of it, and even spoke unto their dying day of the benefits they had received from it. … I looked upon this as a reward for all the sacrifices I had made and was making. I preached the two following Sabbaths at the manse door to increasing audiences, the weather continuing so propitious that every person was taking notice of it.
“I had arranged to leave the manse as soon as possible, and when I left, the manse door could no longer be the place of meeting for the congregation. Accordingly, arrangements were made for erecting a tent on a piece of the barren ground that I rented, and only about one hundred yards west from the parish church. A framework of wood was put up and covered with drugget got at a low rate from a member of the congregation. … On the 25th June I preached for the first time in the tent. It was only about half covered with drugget, and during the service a gale of wind rose and shook the framework so much that the congregation were greatly alarmed. The gale increased in the afternoon and during the night, but the tent stood till between five and six o’clock on Monday morning, when a heavy blast levelled it with the ground. … The tent was re-erected, and the framework strengthened and covered with deal, to be afterwards used in the roofing of the church. The drugget was sent to Menmuir, and used as a tent by the congregation there till they got their church erected.”
Mr. Inglis goes on to tell of a series of legal proceedings to which Lord Panmure and his factor had recourse in order to break the lease: – “The secret of their wish to get the land, and my desire to keep it, was that the Free Church tent was erected upon it; and if they had got possession, the tent would have been immediately pulled down, and the congregation would have had no place to meet in. One day after this, Mr. _____, who was a frequent visitor at Brechin Castle [Lord Panmure’s residence], met me in the muir at Edzell; and, looking to the tent, which was a great eyesore to certain persons, he said: ‘Do you know that Lord Panmure says he is to make a dog-kennel of that thing? I immediately replied: ‘Give my compliments to Lord Panmure, and tell him he must ask my leave first.'”326 Mr. Inglis was successful in retaining his right to the lease, and the tent was undisturbed.
It was in the North of Scotland, however, that tents most frequently came into use. They were of the best manufacture, and were supplied at the expense of the general funds of the Free Church, but amid the storms of those northern coasts they were subjected to weather of which their makers had evidently little idea. Two examples which are here given will show the hardships which had to be encountered.
Mr. Davidson, of Kilmalie, records his experience: –
“I preached my last sermon in the parish church on the 4th day of June, 1843, and on the following Sabbath I preached in Kilmalie churchyard, where I had the pleasure of seeing the greater part of the church-going people of the parish come out along with me. I continued to preach to my people in the churchyard for about two months, till we were excluded by the force of an interdict from the heritors of the parish, instigated, no doubt, by the Established Presbytery of the bounds.
“When thus excluded by interdict from the churchyard, we took up our next position on a little green spot upon the seashore, within high-water mark, immediately below the public road, opposite the monument of Colonel John Cameron, where we continued to assemble for public worship for a period of five months in the open air, without anything to cover or protect us from the inclemencies of the weather excepting a small canvas tent for myself. On this spot we had our first Communion after the Disruption, on the 30th day of July, 1843, which was well attended from all parts of the country.
“From the 1st January, 1844, I preached to my people in a large canvas tent, capable of containing from six hundred to eight hundred people, erected close to the sea-shore, on the site now occupied by the garden attached to Mr. Simpson’s cottage, on the part to the west of the cottage. Under the cover of this large canvas tent the congregation were comparatively comfortable so long as it lasted – i.e., during a period of one year and three months. On the 30th of March, 1845, this tent was most completely destroyed by a storm, with the exception of the side-walls, which were supported and protected by wooden slabs six feet high all round. Within this humble enclosure, or remains of the tent, I was enabled to preach to my people assembled for public worship during a period of two years and four months, exposed to all the inclemencies of the weather, summer and winter, until in August, 1847, a wooden shed was erected on a part of the ground then at length given for a site for the church and manse. There the people continued to assemble for public worship, and I continued to officiate every Sabbath for a period of about twelve months while the church was a-building.”327
On the Communion Sabbath above referred to, there was among the audience one who was well able to record his impressions. “We attended,” writes Hugh Miller, “about two months ago, the public service of a Communion Sabbath in Lochiel’s country. The congregation consisted of from three to four thousand persons, and never have we seen finer specimens of our Highland population. We needed no one to tell us that the men at our side – tall, muscular, commanding, from the glens of Lochaber and the shores of Lochiel – were the descendants, the very fac-similes, of the warriors whose battle-cry was heard farthest amid the broken ranks at Preston, and who did all that almost superhuman valour could do to reverse the destinies of Culloden. And yet here they were assembled as if by stealth – the whole population of a whole district – after being chased by the interdicts of the proprietor from one spot of ground to another. … They had gone first to the parish burying-ground. It was the resting-place of their brave ancestors. One family had been accustomed to say, ‘This little spot is ours;’ and another, ‘This little spot is ours;’ and they reasoned, rationally enough, that as the entire area belonged to them in its parts, it might be held to belong to them as a whole also, and that they might meet in it, therefore, to worship their God over the ashes of their fathers. Alas! their simple logic was met by a stringent interdict. … As we stood and listened, the rippling dash of the waves mingled with the voice of the preacher; and there, half on the beach and half on an unproductive strip of marginal sward, … did meet to worship God, patient and unresisting, though grieved and indignant, from three to four thousand of the bravest hearts in Scotland.”328
A companion picture we take from Durness, a scene vividly described by the Rev. Eric Findlater, of Lochearnhead, who had gone north to preach for his father. The reader will specially notice the characteristic action of the Highlanders, drawing their plaids closer, and fixing their thoughts on the sermon.
The scene “had nothing very remarkable about it, at least for those days. It occurred on the 18th of February, 1844. During that month there had been a heavy snowstorm in the North. Although negotiations were going on between the Duke and the people for sites, they had not come to a satisfactory conclusion, and, like their brethren in the neighbouring parishes, my father’s people were forced to worship under shelter of one of those canvas tents which were sent to various places where sites had been refused, from Edinburgh. In calm weather they did tolerably, but their continued exposure to wet, and especially the gales of that climate, soon began to tell on them, for there, especially in winter, Boreas reigns. The one at Durness was pitched in a gravel-pit, in a centrical part of the parish. On the north-west side it was sheltered by a Gaelic schoolhouse, which belonged to the people, and on the west by a high wall, which they themselves built, in order to break the force of the prevailing wind, the W. and S.W. In the centre of it stood the wooden box from which the minister used to address them on the hillside – it was, in short, a movable pulpit. In it I was preaching on the said Sabbath of February. When about the middle of my sermon, which was in Gaelic, there came on a snow-shower, accompanied by a fierce blast from the north. The consequence was that the cloth gave way – it was rent from top to bottom. The people sat still, while a few of the more active young men, expert at the furling of sails, from their intimacy with the sea, in fewer minutes than I take to describe it, laid hold of the fluttering mass, and secured it to the poles with its own cords. I then turned my back to the blast, and having covered my head with a handkerchief, went on and finished my discourse. The people crouched a little closer to each other, and adjusted their cloaks and plaids, and then continued to listen as if nothing had happened. If they thought of their ill-advised landlord, it was but for a moment, for they seemed to feel as if their business was with One, from listening to whose message not even the wrath of men ought to move them.”
“The scene where this incident occurred lies about a quarter of a mile from the sea-shore, but overlooking the ocean. On a fine day it is a fair prospect that presents itself to the eye. In the foreground there are some high rocks, farther in the distance the Whiten Head stands majestically forth, as if doing homage to the Northern Ocean as the rays of the evening sun fall upon its venerable but wrinkled face, while in the distance appear the storm-swept Orcades, their dissolving blue commingling with that of the sky; but on such a day as that it was a far different picture. The shore was one continued line of foam and spray. The multitudinous waves lifted up not only their crests, but their voices. The Whiten Head looked sullen from under a cloud, while the Orkney Islands were hid in the womb of the storm. Yet, while we were worshipping under such circumstances, the lord of the soil on which we stood was perhaps worshipping the same God under the roof of some aisled and groined cathedral in his cushioned pew, his eyes delighted with dim religious light, and his ears regaled with the sounds of the solemn organ.”329
The incidents and details now given will enable the reader to form some idea of the difficulties with which pastors and people had to contend all over Scotland, and what were the strange circumstances under which the worship of God had to be conducted. Our Presbyterian Churches, it is well known, do not recognise the peculiar sanctity of consecrated buildings – the sacredness of divine worship, according to their ideas, depending rather on the spirituality and devoutness of mind with which the worshippers draw near to God. Under the pressure of necessity, indeed, in that season of 1843, there was no alternative; all external circumstances were lost sight of in far higher thoughts. Barns and stables, and old mills and granaries, wool-stores and malt-barns, and cart-sheds and saw-pits, and wooden churches and tents – all kinds of accommodation were welcome anywhere, under any roof that could give them shelter; and when everything else failed, then out in the open air, among the green fields and glens. It was amid such strange surroundings that from week to week hundreds of thousands of the most earnest minds in Scotland came together for the worship of God. If one could combine into a single picture these various scenes, it would form a spectacle such as no country in modern times has witnessed, and one which, in the estimation of many, is not altogether unworthy to be associated with the memories of former days of trial and struggle. Many a time under those lowly roofs, or out on those bare hillsides, men’s thoughts went back to the days of persecution when our covenanting forefathers met for the worship of God amid the glens and moors of our native land, or to scenes associated with memories more sacred still – the river-side at Philippi, where prayer was wont to be made – the boat floating on the Sea of Galilee, out of which One spake as man never spake – or the lonely desert which the presence of God turned into a Bethel, the very gate of heaven.
But without attempting to follow out such thoughts, we turn to the statements of those ministers and people who were actually engaged in these services.
“At one time I was called,” says Mr. M’Indoe, of Galston, in describing his experience during the summer of 1843, “to address an audience in an open shed, at another in a splendid hall, and again in a crowded schoolroom, with temporary wooden erections, where the people could only obtain an occasional glimpse of the minister. Most encouraging, however, it was to witness the humble peasant and the titled nobility pouring their offerings into the treasury of the Lord, and afterwards taking their seats on the same bench, and listening with eagerness to the words of eternal life.”330
“When the weather permitted,” writes Mr. Gibson, of Kirkbean, “we met in the open air, and served God in the open plain, or on the mountain-side, or along the sea-shore. As attested by many, these were precious Sabbaths, sweet times to souls. Jehovah Shammah – the Lord was there.”331
Such testimonies on the part of ministers it is not needful to multiply.
From among the hearers, we may refer to a letter of Mrs. Coutts, well known in the Edinburgh circles of that day, as one whose heart and whose wealth were consecrated to the cause of Christ. She writes from the Bridge-of-Earn: “In the coal-shed which we have as a tent, I have sat five Sabbaths with much delight, with between 600 and 700 worshippers. I do think ministers and people seem enlarged and solemnised.”332
In greater detail, and with his own graphic power, Hugh Miller conducts us into the midst of one of these lowly assemblies. In the Island of Eigg, “the building in which the congregation meets is a low dingy cottage of turf and stone. … We found the congregation already gathered, and that the very bad morning had failed to lessen their numbers. There were a few of the male parishioners keeping watch at the door, looking wistfully out through the fog and rain for their minister; and at his approach nearly twenty more came issuing from the place, like carder bees from their nest of dried grass and moss, to gather round him and shake him by the hand. … Rarely have I seen human countenances so eloquently vocal with veneration and love. … The rude turf building we found full from end to end, and all asteam with a particularly wet congregation, some of whom, neither very robust nor young, had travelled in the soaking drizzle from the further extremities of the island. And judging from the serious attention with which they listened to the discourse, they must have deemed it full value for all it cost them. I have never yet seen a congregation more deeply impressed, or that seemed to follow the preacher more intelligently; and I was quite sure, though ignorant of the language in which my friend addressed them, that he preached to them neither heresy nor nonsense. There was as little of the reverence of externals in the place as can well be imagined. An uneven earthen floor – turf walls on every side and a turf roof above; two little windows of four panes apiece, adown which the rain-drops were coursing thick and fast; a pulpit grotesquely rude, that had never employed the bred carpenter; and a few ranges of seats of undressed deal. Such were the mere materialisms of this lowly church of the people; and yet here, notwithstanding, was the living soul of a Christian community, understandings convinced of the truth of the Gospel, and hearts softened and impressed by its power.”333
Yet another of these scenes we have it in our power to give, interesting in itself, and important as an indication of how much our Church owes to the services of that first summer, not only in large congregations, but in retired rural districts.
“During the summer of 1843, my father’s family resorted for country quarters, as we had done for some summers before, to that part of the parish of Roseneath which looks out on Loch Long, and down towards Dunoon and Arran. In previous seasons the pedestrian part of the family used to cross the moor to the parish church of Roseneath, while those who were not up to walking proceeded to the same destination in a seated cart, by the beautiful road which, after winding at some height above the sea in full view of Arran and the Gourock and Greenock hills, turns inland through a valley, and crossing a peninsula, emerges again on the sheltered shores of the Gareloch, and follows them up to the clachan of Roseneath.
“The arrangements for the Disruption congregation were made by Mr. Lorne Campbell, the excellent commissioner of that part of the Argyll estates. A saw-pit, adaptable beyond most saw-pits, was utilised for the purpose. It was in the valley above referred to, and not very far from the site of the present Free Church, but nearer the Gareloch, if I remember right. The sawn planks helped the accommodation, and I am not sure but some shelter was knocked up which partly protected the congregation; or rather, a few of them, for most of us sat sub jove. It was a beautiful summer, and I remember some very hot Sundays. I remember still more the animation of the preaching, and the cordiality of the hearing; some who are gone hence are much associated in my mind with the peculiar mood of thankfulness, tenderness, and hope which characterised these Sabbaths of 1843. That year made me a minister.”334
At last these memorable months passed away, and in October, when the General Assembly met at Glasgow, presided over by Dr. Brown, of St. John’s, one of the most devout and earnest men who ever sat in that place of honour, this was his testimony, as given from the moderator’s chair:
Our ministers “have gone forth and scattered the seed of the Word in every corner. They have preached by the seashore or the river’s brink, in the retired glen or the mountainside, and in many instances with powerful and blessed effect. In many of the districts which they visited, the doctrine which they preached or their mode of preaching it was new. In many corners the cold chilling – at best but moral – disquisitions and addresses issuing from many pulpits (we make exceptions), had induced an apathetic indifference to the things of God and eternity; but the soul-melting, heart-subduing strains of the Gospel, accompanied by stirring appeals to the conscience, aroused, and captivated, and enchained many. Many a parched spot has thus been watered and refreshed, and many a soul, we doubt not, has been brought to a knowledge of the truth, and won to the Saviour. Had no other good effects flowed from the Disruption, this of itself is a blessed consummation, proving that God can and will bring good out of evil; for oh! what are all our movements to be directed to, what are we to covet and sigh for, but that a people may be gained unto the Lord, and brands plucked from the everlasting burning.”335
The Building Committee
Contributions to the Fund
Difficulty as to Sites
Lord Aberdeen’s Kindness
Case of Methlic
Refusals of Building materials
Janet Fraser’s Gift of a Site
Mrs. Gardyne’s Case
Heartiness of the People
The Committee’s Reports, 1843-46
Retrospective Interest of the Transition Period
We have thus seen what a happy time of blessing it was during the bright days of that first summer after the Disruption. All temporary inconveniences in those strange meeting-places were welcomed and made light of. The very novelty of the scene, the freedom from conventional restraint, gave zest and interest to the service; men felt they were acting under a sense of duty; the heart was enlarged, and never was there deeper earnestness and never brighter or happier Sabbaths. But the stormy months of a Scottish winter were coming, the building of substantial churches was obviously a matter of urgent necessity, and erelong architects and tradesmen in every district of Scotland had their energies taxed to the uttermost. As Mr. Lewis, of Dundee, expresses it, “All were now as busy building as before in battling for our freedom, that we might again raise our heads as a Church in the land.”336 Before the month of June was past, one of the ministers wrote: “An acute sense of the dangers of winter is the reason why at all hazards the resolution was taken yesterday to begin the work of building instantly, and to-day I shook hands with a tenant driving his own horses with the first two carts of lime, while others are loading the sand. … One carpenter subscribes six weeks’ work.”337
The most formidable difficulty, however, was to know where the funds were to come from. If the 600 or 700 churches were to be of stone and lime, roofed and slated, and properly fitted up inside, would not the cost be enormous – out of all proportion to the resources of the people’ The committee sitting at headquarters in Edinburgh gave it as their opinion, in February, 1843, that “the expense of such erections for all the congregations of the Church, even on the most moderate scale of expense for buildings of that description, would exceed half-a-million sterling, and any attempt therefore to realise the object in that way would at once crush and overwhelm the Church under an insuperable load, and leave it struggling after an unattainable object, with its energies cramped and paralysed.”338
Holding these views – and it was impossible to judge otherwise at the time – there had been much serious deliberation among our leading men. The advice of eminent architects and builders had been taken, and the results were brought out by Dr. Candlish, so early as the great West Church meeting, held in August, 1841. On that memorable occasion – one of the marked turning-points of the conflict – two announcements were made which had no small influence on the course of events. First, it was in contemplation to erect churches partly of wood and partly of brick, roofed with felt, and if such buildings were heated and ventilated on approved principles, they would be found sufficiently comfortable, and might be put up at moderate expense. This was followed by the still more important suggestion that the wealthy congregations in towns and the poorer congregations in the country should go hand in hand, uniting to raise a general building fund, out of which all should receive share and share alike. Among the pre-Disruption ministers who still survive, there must be some who can to this day recall the sense of relief with which these announcements were welcomed. When the great enterprise of church building was placed on this footing, men began to see their way, as if the undertaking were fairly brought within the limits of possibility, and might really be entered on with some hope of success.
At last the time came when such general suggestions had to be put in shape, and practically carried out. A building committee was appointed, having at its head Mr. John Hamilton, advocate, one of the Church’s most esteemed and ablest laymen. With great wisdom, as the event proved, it was resolved that money should be raised in two ways. First, there was to be the general fund already spoken of, but along with that there was to be a local fund in each parish, every separate congregation being expected to do what they could for themselves. In this way the generous feelings of the richer congregations were powerfully appealed to, urging them to do their utmost in aid of their poorer brethren in remote localities; while, on the other hand, the weaker congregations were encouraged and stimulated by the knowledge that they had behind them the general funds of the Church on which to lean. Detailed plans of those brick churches, along with practical suggestions, were sent forth to all corners of the land.
Everything was now ready for action – plans were adjusted, and on the eve of the Disruption, when the event had become inevitable, the actual appeal for funds was sent forth. The result proved a signal rebuke to many whose faith had been weak. God, whose is the silver and gold, touched the hearts of His people, and the flow of contributions which came into the treasury was like the rush of pent-up waters. From the wealthier members, gifts followed in rapid succession of from £100 to £500 and £1000. But far more important were the contributions of the middle classes and the poor, who pressed eagerly forward, as if they felt that this was a great national Christian work in which they must be allowed to have their part. A few days after the Disruption had taken place, it was announced in the General Assembly that the contributions to the two branches of the building fund, general and local, amounted together to £104,776. By the time the next Assembly came round, there had been added a sum of £123,060, and during the succeeding year, a further sum of £131,737 had been raised, so that by the month of May, 1845 – two years after the Disruption – the free-will offerings of the people for the building of their churches alone had risen to the sum of £359,573. And beyond this there was the value of ground given for sites, materials, and driving free of charge, and gratuitous labour, representing in all a very large additional sum.
The great difficulty, however, in some parts of the country was to obtain a site on which to build. Already we have seen how hard it was in many parishes to get ground on which to set up a tent or wooden shed. The objection was, of course, still greater when it came to actual church building. In the long run, the more flagrant cases of site-refusing had to be brought before a committee of the House of Commons; but these we reserve for separate notice in a future section. In the meantime, it may be interesting to mention some of the parishes in which difficulties were overcome, and sites obtained at an earlier period.
Here, however, it is only right to make due acknowledgment of the honourable conduct of Lord Aberdeen. During the Ten Years’ Conflict, so long as the fight went on, the Church had no more determined or formidable opponent, but no sooner had the Disruption taken place on a scale so different from what he had been taught to expect, than he at once acted towards the members of the Free Church in the most kind and liberal spirit. In the parish of Fyvie, when Mr. Manson and his friends applied for a site – which they did with many misgivings – an immediate reply came from his lordship at the Foreign Office, expressing his difference of opinion, and his deep regret at the step which they had seen it to be their duty to take, but frankly agreeing to give them all the accommodation they required.
In the neighbouring parish of Methlic, where the family residence, Haddo House, is situated, he acted in a way not less considerate and kind. The whole account deserves to be given, though it somewhat anticipates the course of events.
The parish minister was opposed to the Free Church, and the earlier movements in favour of the cause had been on a slender scale. The first meeting in the parish was held by Mr. M’Cheyne in February, 1843, when a deep impression was produced, but only seven individuals signed the Convocation resolutions. A second meeting was held on the 10th of June, one of the farmers giving his barn in spite of a “home-made interdict by the factor.” Between two hundred and three hundred people attended, more than the barn could hold, and were addressed by the Rev. G. Garioch, of Old Meldrum. When the Disruption took place, only nine persons left the Establishment, and these all joined Free Church congregations in the neighbourhood. In the end of 1843, application for the supply of ordinances was made to the Free Presbytery, but they were unable to comply.
“Little more was done for Methlic for a considerable time, but in July, 1846, Francis Main … went to a meeting of Presbytery at Ellon, and with tears besought them to do something for Methlic. The result was, that the Presbytery agreed to give services on each alternate Sabbath, the Presbytery having by this time been increased by the addition of Mr. Garioch, Old Meldrum, and Mr. Moir, of New Machar.
“The first who, in accordance with this resolution, preached in Methlic was the Reverend Mr. Brown, of Cruden, Mr. Philip having by this time been translated to Dunfermline. In the forenoon he preached in a grass field on the south side of the parish to a congregation of 200, and in the afternoon in a grass field, on the north side, to a congregation of about 300. The next who preached was Mr. Moir, of New Machar, to fully as large congregations. At this time Mr. William Grant, merchant in the village, had fitted up a hall for his own convenience; but also as a place where public meetings might be held. It was rumoured that Mr. Grant would be willing to let the hall for £10 per annum. I consulted with Mr. Moir about the propriety of taking it, on condition that the Presbytery would give occasional help in the way of supply. Next day I went down and spoke to Mr. Grant about it, when he said that if we were willing to give £10 he would provide seats and let us have it. The bargain was made; and here I would say, and would like to have it recorded, that Mr. and Mrs. Grant, although members of the Established Church, were most kind and obliging, and at considerable inconvenience lodged our probationers for more than two years, when no other house sufficient could be had in the parish. We entered the hall on the 23rd August, 1846, and had it filled to the door every Sabbath.
“We then commenced a Sabbath school. With the exception of the minister’s class, there was no such thing in the parish. But no sooner had we set one agoing than the Established Church had one begun alongside of it.
“Towards the end of the same year we had two lectures on the difference between the Free and the Established Churches. They were well attended, and numbers gave in their adherence, though not a few went back afterwards.
“Our first probationer was the Rev. Mr. Duncan, a good minister in every sense of the word; one who, if spared, would have left his mark. After a while he was settled at Gartly, and preached only four Sabbaths, when he was laid aside by sickness, and did not live long after. After this our pulpit was generally supplied by probationers or students from Aberdeen, and very frequently by Mr. Alexander Laing, an elder in Aberdeen, whose services were very much prized.
“On the first day of the year 1847 Mr. John Brown, Mr. James Davidson, Gowanwell, and Mr. John Burnett, watchmaker, Tarves, were appointed by the congregation to apply to the Earl of Aberdeen for a site for a church. In due time John Burnett and I went and presented to his lordship a petition to this effect, signed by between 200 and 300 adherents. His lordship frankly said that we would get a site, after he had looked over the names to see where the parties signing were located, as he wanted to give also a croft large enough to keep two cows and a pony. On this assurance we busied ourselves raising funds for the building of a church. But April had now arrived, and we had heard nothing about the site. I thought of writing his lordship, then in London, about the promised site, which I did, and in three or four days after I got a note from his factor, saying that he would meet us on a certain day to arrange about the site. We met in due course. The first site he offered us was two miles from the Parish Church, and within two miles of the U.P. Church of Savoch. This we refused. He then offered us one a mile and three-quarters from the parish church. This we also refused, as not at all centrical, and as we had mentioned in our petition to his lordship that we desired a site in or not far from the village. Some time after the factor wrote to us that he would try again to satisfy us. According to appointment, we met with him, when he offered us the site on which the church is now built, less rather than half-a-mile from the parish church. Plans and specifications for our church were prepared by Mr. James Henderson, Aberdeen. The building went on as quickly as possible, and on the 6th of August, 1848, it was opened by Professor M’Laggan, Free Church College, Aberdeen. The collection on that occasion amounted to £23.
“Having thus got the church erected, our next object was the providing of a manse, as there was no convenient house for a minister to live in. We applied to the factor to make out our lease, as we might proceed at once to build part of a manse. He sent word to the local land-surveyor to draw a plan of the piece of ground on which the church was built, including as much more as would be half-an-acre. Immediately to the south of the church lay a bog, and it came out that this was to be included in the half-acre, and was to be the site for the manse. On hearing this I went into Aberdeen, a distance of 24 miles, called on the factor, and said I had come to see about a site for the manse. He took out the plan prepared, and showed me the place. I said, ‘It would not do; we would never build in such a place; we would like it on the New Deer Road, opposite the church.’ He said he would come out and look at the ground again. But I said I would not meet any more with him, as there was little likelihood of getting things right; that I had travelled so much already, hither and thither, that I would put the case into the hands of the Presbytery. I asked him whether he would be willing to meet with a deputation from the Presbytery in the matter. He said he would. The Presbytery met at Old Meldrum, and I went to it, and stated our case, asking them to appoint a committee of their number to wait on the factor. This they did, appointing the Rev. Mr. Archibald of Udny, with Mr. Manson of Kilblean, and Mr. Harvey of Tillygrieg. In pursuance of this resolution of the Presbytery, Rev. Mr. Archibald called on the factor, at his office in Aberdeen, to arrange regarding the time when he would meet the deputation from the Presbytery at Methlic. He said he would not go out to Methlic, he had given them a site for a manse, and if they would not accept it they would get no other.
“When we were made acquainted with this decision of the factor, we resolved to have a congregational meeting; and such meeting was duly held, when it was unanimously agreed that the whole proceedings in the case should be laid before the Earl of Aberdeen. This having been done by letter, a day was appointed for meeting his lordship. I went. His first remark was to this effect: ‘You seem to think that my factor, Mr. _____, has been dealing deceitfully by you.’ I answered, ‘We don’t say that; we only say that he does not see the matter in the proper light.’ His lordship said, ‘_____ says he cannot give you a site any other way, because the New Deer Road passes between the church and the site you want.’ I answered his lordship that his factor’s case was worse, for he was putting a burn as well as a road between the church and the manse on his site; and I took my staff and drew the plan in either case on the carpet, when his lordship said, ‘Oh, I see it now! It is long since I have been in that place, but I remember it now. You will have your site where you please. I wish to do as well to you Free Church people as to the others. You will get the site you want, and as much land, and inland, too, mind that, as will keep two cows and a pony.’ After this, when building office houses in connection with the manse and croft, I asked the factor for slates, and without a word we got slates to the value of £15. So much for the kindness and liberality of Lord Aberdeen. Few landlords acted as he did, and it may be added that his successors have been equally kind and considerate.”339
Such was the generous treatment which the people received at the hands of a former opponent. Unfortunately, there were too many lesser men, who acted in a far different spirit. Thus at Humbie, East Lothian, Mr. Dodds states: “We had very great difficulty in procuring a site for a church; all the heritors, and most of the farmers, being hostile to our cause. At length, through the kind intervention of George Buchan, Esq. of Kelloe, his brother, Sir John Buchan, the proprietor of Upper Keith, consented to give us a site on his property.” The farm, however, was in the hands of the trustees of a deceased farmer, and Mr. _____, who had the practical management, “opposed us in every way, and nearly prevented our getting the site we wanted. It was only through the solicitations of Mr. Cadell, of Cockenzie, who had considerable influence with him, that Mr. _____ at last withdrew his opposition.” “In this way,” Mr. Dodds adds, “we got a site for a church, against the judgment and wish both of the proprietor of the ground and the person who exercised the rights and authority of tenant, a case perhaps unparalleled in the Free Church.”340
At Flisk, “many fruitless attempts were made to get a site for our church. We thought of one in the village of Luthrie, which was to be sold by public roup. But the minister’s sister had secretly instructed the man of business to secure it for her at any price. In our desire to get it we ran up the price far beyond its real value, and then left it to her. … In a way we little expected a site was procured, and probably a more suitable one than any that could have been selected. Mr. Boyd, wright, Brunton, the only remaining elder in the parish of Creich, joined us, and as he had a small stripe of land close by the very spot on which it had once been contemplated to build the parish church, he disposed of it, both for church and manse. These seem little things, but they were great providences to us.”341
Sometimes the people were in straits, and thankfully accepted of sites on which it was difficult to get a church of any kind built. At Ardrossan, the Earl of Eglinton, a kindly and popular nobleman, on being applied to by Dr. Landsborough, met his request by a curt refusal. In the neighbouring village of Saltcoats, however, a small piece of ground was heard of, belonging to Dr. Dow, of Greenock, with a small house on it, much dilapidated. There was some doubt as to whether the space would be sufficient. Dr. Landsborough made an application for it to Dr. Dow, and that venerable and benevolent gentleman, as he states, “immediately wrote to me, that for the sake of the gude auld Kirk, and for the sake of the good old man, his father, who had long been a minister of that Kirk,342 he would be delighted to give the ground as a free gift, and would be happy to learn that it was large enough. The materials of the old house also were kindly offered. A plan and measurement of the ground having been sent to Mr. Cousin, architect, Edinburgh, he said that there would be room for a church, but that a special plan would be necessary.”343 This having been furnished by Mr. Cousin, a handsome church was built, and opened by Dr. Brown, of Glasgow, in January, 1844. It was seated for seven hundred, and the whole sittings were at once let. The attendance was afterwards affected, to some extent, by the opening of two Free Churches in the neighbourhood – at Stevenston and Ardrossan.
The case of Dr. Simpson at Kintore was more trying. “Much difficulty was experienced in procuring a site for the Free Church here. Our application to the late Earl of Kintore, on whose ground it was most desirable to have our place of worship erected, met with a refusal. In consequence of this we were obliged to erect it in a swampy situation on the property of Mr. William Smith, merchant, within flood-mark of the Don, which circumstance has proved the source of very great inconvenience and discomfort. Owing to the extreme softness of the foundation, thin brick walls were built on a basement of stone, and these being found incapable of sustaining a slated roof, felt was resorted to, which has proved an insufficient covering. Our case in this respect is rather singular, for when the river overflows, the water finds its way to a considerable depth into the under building, while, during a shower, the rain has often come down upon us overhead in many places. This has been no slight trial, but we have now  the prospect of relief, as the guardians of Lord Kintore have granted an eligible site in the most handsome manner.”344
There were parishes in which it was only in consequence of some remarkable conjunction of circumstances that sites were obtained. At Forgandenny, the difficulties threatened to prove insurmountable. “While we were in our thatched cottage,” Mr. Drummond writes, “a note was sent to me from the lady of one of the leading heritors, to ask if I and my adhering people would be content with a site at the Path of Condie, if such a site could be obtained. Now, the Path of Condie lies fully five miles from the bulk of our people, and in the highest part of the Ochils. It was utterly impossible that we could accept of such an offer. It was as much as to say that there could be no Free Church here, and that we must abandon all hope of remaining in the parish. Besides, as she added in her note, she was not sure whether her husband would be able to secure ground for us there. Indeed, a United Presbyterian Chapel existed in that elevated region already, so that there was no room for us. … We had just begun to consider whether it were possible to obtain sites for church and manse, and we had made two applications to the heritors, whose ground was in all respects the most suitable. We knew well that it would be utterly hopeless to approach the other two. Both of these applications were indignantly rejected. In the meantime, we had some slight hope that we might secure a portion of a liferent property, which would perfectly suit our purpose. The liferenter having previously fallen into pecuniary difficulties, had sold his right to a party in Perth, who was then in possession of it.
“That property had an interesting history. When the last holder, who succeeded to his grandfather, took possession of it, the proprietor, to whom it was to lapse at his death, disputed his title to it, and accordingly raised an action against him before both the Sheriff-Substitute and Sheriff of Perth, and lost in both cases. When this heritor, however, learned that we were looking after a part of it, he determined, if possible, to get hold of the whole property. With that view he carried the question to the Court of Session, and the day was actually fixed by the Supreme Court for trying the case. But in the meantime, _____ happened to be on a visit to the said proprietor, who showed him the papers connected with the business; _____ advised him to proceed no farther, for, said he, the Court is sure to decide against you. Disappointed in this direction, his next plan was to buy up the liferent. Accordingly, he actually went to the holder’s man of business in Perth, with the intention of purchasing it. But it so happened that a friend of ours preceded him, and having concluded a bargain for part of the land in our favour, was coming down stairs from the agent’s office, when he met the said heritor going up on his fruitless errand.”345
At Peebles, the site on which the church is built “belonged to nine different proprietors, all either indifferent or hostile to the Church. Yet, to the amazement of not a few, every difficulty yielded to the indefatigable perseverance and consummate prudence of the Free Church Committee in their negotiations with the proprietors of the ground. This was all the more remarkable, seeing that it was the very spot which the Relief congregation earnestly desired, and strove, without success, to obtain, … some fifteen or twenty years before.”346
In not a few of these cases much of the burden and anxiety fell on the minister.
“Peculiar difficulties occurred in connection with the Free Church cause in Roslin. The landed proprietors were all hostile, and ground for building could not be obtained from any of them. The elders were despondent, and knew not what to do. In these circumstances, Mr. Brown was constrained, entirely on his own responsibility, to purchase an old house in Roslin village, in order to get the garden as a site for a Free Church. The old house was repaired and used for some years as a school-house.”347
At Girthon, Mr. Jeffrey’s “greatest anxiety during the five months of his last illness was about a site for the church. … It appears marvellous, on looking back twenty years, to comprehend the hatred evinced by the Established party against the Free Church, and in Girthon, every kind of petty scheme of annoyance was resorted to to prevent a site being got. I do not know how many sites were fixed on, and when almost everything was arranged, objections were raised against the work proceeding. All this lay most heavily on Mr. Jeffrey’s head during his illness, and he was not aware of the site being finally obtained till about an hour before his death. Mr. Pearson, one of his elders, told him of it. He was very thankful, and prayed for a blessing to rest upon the church about to be erected.”348
These extracts will show the obstacles which had in many cases to be overcome; but even after sites had been obtained the difficulties were often far from being ended. It not unfrequently happened that the opposition of landlords and tenants showed itself in refusing the usual facilities for obtaining building materials, and there were districts in which this proved a very serious hindrance.
At one time it was thought that a site for a church would not be obtained in Madderty, Perthshire – “But at last the people succeeded in procuring a piece of moor-ground from a small proprietor, having been refused a site on another property on which it would have been most suitable and central for the scattered population. On the same property on which a site was refused there was a quarry, from which the people could not be allowed to take stones for the building of the church, and they were consequently under the necessity of bringing all the stones from a place ten miles distant. All the landed proprietors in the parish were hostile to the principles of the Free Church.”349
The greatest difficulty in some cases was sand. When the church was commenced at Kelty, for the parishes of Cleish and Beath, “none of the neighbouring proprietors would allow us to take sand from the pits on their property, so that the work was put a stop to, till the wife of the proprietor of Gairney Bank, parish of Kinross, in the absence of her husband, ventured to send us several cart-loads of sand which were afterwards repeated with his consent. Previous to this, however, permission had been obtained to dig sand from the side of a public road. A man was sent, accordingly, to procure the necessary supply, and already a considerable quantity had been thrown out, and was lying on the roadside ready to be wheeled away next morning. But during the night a man, who possessed a small property in the neighbourhood of the spot, … filled up the hole with the sand, alternating each spadeful with a spadeful of earth, thus rendering it useless for the purpose.”350
At Portpatrick, they had to bring their supply from a greater distance. “The Free Church congregation at the time of the Disruption were exposed to considerable hardship from the refusal of sites. The proprietor of the soil was keenly opposed to the movement, and did all in his power to put it down. Sand for building required to be brought all the way from Brodick Bay, in Arran.”351
At Forgandenny, the circumstances that occurred called forth an unusual amount of feeling. “Having fixed upon a suitable spot for the church, we instantly made preparations for building, as we were anxious to have the congregation safely under roof before winter should come. A plan was got and approved of. Estimates for the different departments of the work were accepted. And now to us a very important question arose – where was the needful sand to be got’ There was no difficulty about stones, for the contracting masons had a quarry on lease in the neighbourhood, from which they could take as much building material, unchallenged, as they might require. But the sand – where could we look for it’
“We were aware that sand of the best kind had for a long time been taken from a bank in the bed of the River Earn. We resolved therefore to supply ourselves with what we might require from that quarter, not dreaming that opposition would be offered on the part of any one. Accordingly, carts were sent down to bring up a first supply, but on the servants returning for a second they were served with an interdict, at the instance of a neighbouring proprietor, and were obliged to come back empty. They were summoned to appear before the Sheriff on a charge of trespass and theft. This looked a very serious case. Still we were convinced that we had a right to take as much sand as we needed from that spot. Six men, all of excellent character, informed us that they had driven it, unhindered, one for sixty years, two for more than fifty, and the rest for upwards of forty-five years, and that they were willing to attend the Sheriff Court and give evidence upon oath to that effect. They did so, and thus the Sheriff had no alternative but to declare from the bench that the servants had committed no trespass, seeing that the public had a prescriptive right to take sand for building and other purposes from the bed of the Earn. And yet he most unwarrantably saddled the innocent men with the expenses of the process.
“It so happened, however, that a gentleman in Edinburgh, who had long been in the habit of frequenting Pitkaithly Wells for two or three months in the year, and who, therefore, felt some interest in what transpired in our county, read the account of the decision in a Perth newspaper which he was wont to receive. He felt for the servants, and was shocked to learn that any expenses were laid upon them. I had never met with that benevolent individual before, and had had no previous correspondence with him. The expenses had been already paid by us, but he sent me an order for the amount, to be handed to the servants, which they on the following Sabbath put into the plate to aid in building the church. We had no further trouble about the sand.”352
In the midst of these difficulties there were cases in which the most effective help came from the female members of the church. At Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, the site was obtained in a way well deserving of notice. A lady, Mrs. Smith, had a small piece of ground very near Old Meldrum, where she came to reside. Formerly she had lived in Aberdeen, and while there had attended a meeting of Synod, in which the Church question was discussed, and at which Mr. Garioch, of Old Meldrum, had taken part in the debate. She had formerly been opposed to the principles of the Evangelical majority; but the effect of that discussion was an entire change of her views, and a firm resolution to advance the cause which hitherto she had opposed. Along with her husband, she removed to Old Meldrum, and occupied one of the houses that belonged to her. One day, in the course of his visitation, Mr. Garioch called at the house, and as he left, Mrs. Smith said to him, “I see now the likelihood of a speedy disruption in the Church, and when that takes place, if you will accept of a site on my ground for the church which will then be required, I will not only give it with pleasure, but will consider that the favour is done to me in its being accepted.” The generous offer was cordially welcomed, and when the time came the church was built on the site thus providentially procured. 353
At Penicuik, the ground belonged to Sir George Clerk, who held an important office under Government. He had taken an active part in the Ten Years’ Conflict; but after the Disruption, the spirit which he displayed was widely different from that of Lord Aberdeen. On being applied to, he not only refused a site, but when the people had bought for themselves an eligible piece of ground, he interposed, as superior of the barony, to claim the right of pre-emption, and so effectually shut them out. At a subsequent period, when they had purchased a cottage and proposed to enlarge it as a manse, he again successfully interfered to prevent their adding to the comfort of their pastor. These efforts, however, to put down the obnoxious Free Church were not successful. A respectable old woman named Helen Wilson had died leaving part of a cottage and a garden, which were put up for sale by public auction. The purchaser was Charles Cowan, Esq., M.P., who made a present of the garden as a site to the Free Church. The ground was held on lease from Sir George’s estate at Penicuik, but as 400 years of the lease had still to run, it was fortunately a good way out of reach. On this piece of ground a church was built. As the little garden, however, was triangular in shape, the church had necessarily to be somewhat similar in form. It was opened in the month of October. “The pulpit was placed behind, near the apex of the triangle, and the seating was necessarily disposed in segments of a circle, the area of the church being somewhat in the form of a fan. The front is about a hundred feet in length, and considering the very awkward shape of the ground, “the effect of the whole is peculiarly pleasing.”354 Subsequently Sir G. Clerk gave ground for a manse, and ultimately the advantageous site where the present Free Church stands, on reasonable terms.
A similar case, which obtained a yet greater share of public notice, occurred at Thornhill, a considerable village in the upper part of Dumfriesshire. Most of the ground belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, whose influence was paramount in the district, and as he had unfortunately taken an attitude of keen hostility to the Free Church, there was great difficulty in obtaining a site. It happened, however, that a poor woman named Janet Fraser, a stocking weaver, had a small property, consisting of two cottages and a plot of ground, the whole yielding a rent of about £6 a-year. Thirty years before she had formed a resolution to dedicate this property in some way to the cause of God, and when the Free Church congregation, finding themselves in difficulties, asked whether she would sell it, she intimated her purpose to hand it over as a free gift. Some delay occurred, as there was another site which the congregation would have preferred, and the poor woman spent the interval in some anxiety, the idea having taken possession of her mind that if the site were refused it would be a token that the Lord had cast out her gift. “In the meantime, there came a person who was understood to act for the Duke of Buccleuch, and offered to treat for the purchase of the ground. He began by offering £25, but presently advanced to £50. Janet cut him short by her noble reply – she had devoted it to her Maker, and she would not take £500, no nor all the dukedom of Queensberry for her ground, under a prohibition to give it to the Almighty. It was finally arranged that she should receive a small rent for it during her life, and that on her death it should become the property of the congregation. Upon the ground thus bestowed the Free Church of Thornhill has been erected. It has one rather significant peculiarity. The south wall has a deforming bend, which interferes with the symmetry of an otherwise goodly edifice. Eighteen inches more of ground would have made the wall straight. But these eighteen inches would have encroached on the Duke’s march [boundary], and so the wall is crooked.”
When a deputation from the Free Church visited America, this story of Janet Fraser seems greatly to have taken the fancy of our Transatlantic friends. At the meetings, Dr. Burns says: “We always placed the Principal (Cunningham) in the foreground, as the vigorous and successful exponent of Acts of Parliament and Claims of Right. But he generally concluded when he paid a tribute to worthy Janet Fraser and the ‘crook in the wa’.’ On such occasions the starched features of our dear American friends were pleasantly relaxed into something not unlike a laugh, by the exciting contrast between the outgoings of a massive intellect and the playings of fancy around the circle of a good story.”355
Dr. Cunningham himself, when addressing the Assembly on his return, adverted to the topic. “Perhaps no one in this country has excited a greater degree of sympathy in America than Janet Fraser. They were acquainted with her case, they knew the trials to which she had been subjected, and I have brought home many expressions of cordial regard and sympathy for her. I hold in my hands a pair of silver spectacles, the gift of a Scotchwoman in New York, who desired me to send them to Janet.”
At Carmylie, Forfarshire, Mrs. Gardyne, a member of the congregation, attempted to render a similar service, but unfortunately it cost her the loss of the property which she believed was hers in liferent. The narrative, by Dr. Wilson, of Dundee, then of Carmylie, strikingly brings out the difficulties of the time.
“The factor of Lord Panmure offered a site at the extreme western boundary of the parish, which was refused as ineligible, being so remote from the great bulk of the congregation. During the summer of 1843, the congregation worshipped in the open air at the small hamlet of Milton. An aged widow, Mrs. Gardyne, a member of the congregation, who supposed she had a liferent interest in the cottage and garden she occupied at Milton, offered to the congregation a portion of her garden on which to erect a temporary building for worship. The congregation gladly availed themselves of this offer, and erected, accordingly, a wooden church, roofed with felt, which was opened for worship on the first Sabbath of October, 1843. In this building the congregation, numbering from 300 to 400, worshipped with great comfort till Whitsunday, 1844. At this date Mrs. Gardyne was evicted from her cottage, and obliged to take refuge with her son in Arbroath, with whom she lived thereafter, till her death; and the congregation, by interdict granted by the Sheriff of the county, was prohibited from again entering the church which they had built. During the summer of 1844, as in the summer of the previous year, they worshipped in the open air by the wayside. Before the winter set in they procured a canvas tent, and in that they worshipped during the winter of 1844-45, when the weather was quiet. There was no sort of shelter from the wind in the locality, and in stormy weather the tent could not be erected. In stormy weather, therefore, they worshipped in the barn at Mains of Carmylie, the use of which was kindly granted by Mr. James Kydd, farmer at Mains, an elder of the congregation. … It is worth while to record one of those humourous hits to which the circumstances of the congregation gave rise. A farmer, James Gardyne, a member of the Free Church, was walking home from Arbroath on the market-day, Saturday, and overtook by the road a brother farmer, Henry Suttie, a member of the Established Church, who was riding home. Henry’s horse had taken an obstinate fit, and refused, in spite of flogging and spurring, to move onwards. ‘Oo, Henry, man,’ said James in passing, ‘what’s the matter wi’ your horse? Has onybody put an interdict upon him?’ Henry had been particularly jubilant on the subject of the interdict served upon the Free Church.
“In the spring of 1845, frequent consultations were held among the office-bearers as to what should be done. There seemed to be no prospect of relief from the hardships under which the congregation were suffering, and although none of the members had been shaken in their allegiance through the hardships to which they were exposed, it was clearly their duty, if possible, to alleviate these hardships. It is proper to record, however, to the praise of a bountiful Providence, that though the congregation often sat in the tent at worship on winter days with their feet resting upon ice, none of them, so far as is known, suffered in health. Two neighbouring congregations, those of Arbirlot and Panbride, to whom a site had also been refused by Lord Panmure, following the example of the congregation at Carmylie, had, in the summer of 1843, erected wooden churches after the model of the one at Carmylie, and Lord Panmure had not interfered with their occupancy of them. These churches were built on the lands of farmers who had a lease, and could not be evicted, as Mrs. Gardyne had been. The congregation at Carmylie resolved to adopt a similar course, and for the second time to erect a wooden church.
“It is necessary to explain why they did not make the attempt at an earlier date. Those members of the congregation who rented lands on the Panmure estates were of two classes – crofters and farmers. In Carmylie there were a large number of these crofters renting from four to fifteen acres of land. They had no written leases, and were liable to be evicted at the will of the proprietor. In 1843, it happened that the leases of all the farmers in Carmylie expired. During the summer of 1843, all the crofters and farmers who were members of the Free Church were waited upon by the ground-officer, and warned that the only condition on which they would be allowed to retain their premises, was by returning to the Established Church. They were assured that Lord Panmure would not tolerate on his estates any member or adherent of the Free Church. The farmers who applied for a renewal of their leases received the same information from the factor. At Whitsunday, 1844, some of the crofters were evicted as a warning to all the rest, who were informed that they would be allowed to continue in occupancy for another year, to see whether they would not within that time quietly return to the Established Church. It is due to the people who were thus harassed and threatened, to say that not one of them complied with the terms of the proprietor.
“Meantime, during the summer of 1844, a new trial awaited them. In the neighbouring parish of Panbride, Mr. Ireland had held the lease of the farm of Firth, bordering on Carmylie parish. Mr. Ireland had subscribed the Convocation resolutions of 1842, and professed the principles of the Free Church. His lease, like those of the Carmylie farmers, expired in 1843, and, as matter of course, he was subjected to the same test. He consented to return to the Established Church, and as a reward for his apostasy, had his lease renewed in 1844 on highly advantageous terms. He immediately set to work as an emissary of the proprietor, and waited upon the Free Church farmers of Carmylie to represent to them what an excellent bargain he had made with the factor, having got his lease renewed at a greatly reduced rent, and that if they would only consent to return to the Established Church he was authorised to assure them that their leases would be renewed on equally advantageous terms. Some of the farmers were in greater danger of being shaken by this inducement than by the threats which had previously been thundered against them. It is possible that some of them might have been worn out and induced to yield, but for a providential occurrence which produced a considerable sensation in the district.
“The autumn of 1844 came on, and Mr. Ireland reaped his crop of grain, the first crop under his new lease, and had it all safely lodged in the barn-yard. The Sabbath after such an important operation is finished is regarded by the farmers in the locality as an occasion for peculiar thanksgiving. Mr. Ireland, of course, on that Sabbath went to the parish church, and died there during the celebration of public worship, before he had sold one boll of that crop for which he had paid so dear. This striking and awful occurrence in Providence had the effect of showing the Carmylie farmers how little security the proprietor could give them in the most favourable bargain they could make with him. Perhaps, also, it had its influence on those who had been so sorely trying and oppressing them. At all events, the system of threatening and bribing ceased from that time.
“In 1845, Lord Panmure commenced giving leases to the Free Church farmers. Now, therefore, the congregation were in a position to follow the course which had been adopted at Arbirlot and Panbride. During the summer of that year, therefore, they commenced the erection of a new wooden church, having obtained the permission of the tenant, Mr. James Kydd, the renewal of whose lease had also led to another important amelioration in their circumstances. On the farm there was an old and a new farm-house. Mr. Kydd occupied the old house and gave the new one for the temporary occupancy of the minister, who was thus, after a banishment of two years, restored to the close neighbourhood of his people, and to his pastoral work among their families. No sooner, however, had they commenced preparations for the erection of a second wooden church, by building a dwarf stone wall for a foundation, than Lord Panmure’s factor interposed. He ordered the mason who was engaged at the work immediately to stop, and when the mason answered that he would only stop on the order of those who employed him, the factor had recourse to Mr. Kydd, and informed him that he had no right to permit the erection of such a building, and that unless its progress was immediately arrested, an interdict would be obtained, both against him and the office-bearers of the congregation. Mr. Kydd having consulted with the minister, who now resided in the adjoining house, answered, that of course they would submit to an interdict, but that nothing else would arrest the progress of the building.
“Having heard this conclusive reply, the factor immediately changed his tactics, for neither he nor Lord Panmure was quite prepared to brave the odium of another interdict. He then, on the part of Lord Panmure, made the offer of a site, on very reasonable terms, and on the very spot of ground which the congregation had vainly solicited for the purpose more than two years previously. A missive, conveying the ground to the extent of a Scotch acre for the erection of a church and manse on a lease of ninety-nine years, was drawn up and subscribed on the spot, and the protracted conflict seemed to be now happily ended. The mason was instructed, not, indeed, to suspend operations, but merely to change the locality of them. The ground thus leased was taken possession of on that very day; and as the congregation needed a temporary shelter for the approaching winter, they set to work to erect a wooden church on the site. They were the rather induced to do this, inasmuch as the factor, to their surprise, made it a condition, to them a very welcome one, that they should forthwith remove the wooden church they had built at Milton two years previously, and from which they had been shut out by interdict. This church, so long locked up, was accordingly transferred to the new and central site which had been granted.
“But a new difficulty occurred before this could be accomplished. The ground for which the missive had been obtained formed part of the farm of Mr. Henry Suttie. On the day after the factor had subscribed the missive, his son was observed riding up to the farm. The congregation suspected no harm, for it might be necessary to negotiate with Mr. Suttie for the transference of the acre of ground, and the compensation to be given him for the loss of it. At the end of the week, however, the object of the visit became apparent, for on Saturday all the office-bearers of the congregation were served with an interdict at the instance of Mr. Suttie. It appeared that while Lord Panmure and his factor were desirous of escaping the odium of an interdict, they had no objection to expose the farmer to it. Building operations were thus again suspended.
“On the Monday after the service of the interdict, however, the minister and two of the elders waited upon Lord Panmure’s agent in Forfar, and represented to him that the interdict really lay against his lordship; that he had granted the congregation a site, and was bound to put them in possession of it; and that if it was pleaded that he had no control over Mr. Suttie, and could only put them in possession of the ground with his consent, there was more than one of the crofters in the immediate neighbourhood who would interpose no obstacle in the way of his lordship’s granting an acre, which the congregation were quite willing to accept. In these circumstances the agent could scarcely fail to see that the odium of the interdict would still attach to Lord Panmure. He was evidently a good deal perplexed, and asked the minister what could be done. The minister replied, ‘It was at the suggestion of the factor that Mr. Suttie applied for this interdict, and if the factor tells him to withdraw it he will be equally obedient.’ This was the course actually followed; and on the following Saturday the interdict was withdrawn, and the harassing troubles of the congregation were thus ended.”356
In contrast to all this hostility, however, there were, in many parts of the country, singular examples of generous liberality among the friends of the Church. At the General Assembly which met five months after the Disruption, Mr. Hamilton, in stating the general amount of contributions, referred to some of these cases as specially deserving of notice. “To this sum must be added the munificent donations in kind which have been contributed to our cause, but which do not appear as cash in our treasurer’s books – that is to say, the entire churches which have been built by individuals at their own charges, and freely presented to the Church. Of these we have to record the following – viz., the Dowager Marchioness of Breadalbane gives a church and also a manse at Langton; Mr. Hog, of Newliston, gives a church and manse at Kirkliston; Mr. Campbell, of Monzie, gives a church at Monzie and another at Dalmally; Mrs. Col. Paston and Miss Arthur of Barnslee give a church and manse at Markinch; Miss Ann Trail gives a church at Papa Westra; Mr. Young gives a church at Burntisland; Mr. Johnston and Mr. Lennox, of New York, give £1100 to erect a church at Kirkcudbright; and to these most honourable instances of liberality we have to add the bounty of that distinguished nobleman who, after having proved from first to last the staunch and unflinching advocate of our principles in high places, has given us the satisfaction of seeing him this day in the midst of us an efficient working elder of the Free Church of Scotland. Lord Breadalbane, besides presenting to the Presbytery of Perth the entire stock of larch timber stored in his yards at Perth – being timber of the noblest growth produced in Scotland, and in the most perfect state of seasoning – has given two million of slates from his celebrated quarries in Argyllshire, the value of which alone is not less than £4000 sterling. His lordship has further proposed to confer on the Church the benefit of the right which he enjoys under his patent as Admiral of the West Coast of Scotland to the driftwood stranded upon its shores. … And in addition to all this, Lord Breadalbane is now exercising, in innumerable nameless acts, a liberality and bounty toward the various churches rising within the bounds of his own princely domain which will promote the vital interests of his people, and root him in their affections to a degree which nothing else could accomplish, and which present an example to the aristocracy of Scotland which it is deeply to be deplored that so few of them have yet shown a disposition to imitate.”357
But while the wealthy members of the Church were thus casting their costly gifts into the treasury of the Lord, there was something peculiarly touching in the way in which the poorer classes gave according to their ability, and when money failed them, supplemented their offerings by gratuitous labour. The carriage of materials in many districts is a heavy item of expense, and this was usually done free of charge by the farmers. The working classes had to take other methods, and in the following extracts the reader will find some examples of what was occurring to a great extent in very many of the parishes of Scotland.
At Catrine it is reported: “We found the people assembled for the purpose of collecting funds to build a church.”An interdict had been applied for by the Establishment party to turn them out of their quoad sacra place of worship. “The spirit that prevailed was most healthful. Three hundred of the young women employed in the mill have undertaken to raise £300, by leaving one shilling a-week of their wages in the hands of their employer for the purpose of building. Before the meeting concluded a hundred and thirty persons had subscribed £450, and I have no doubt that before this month is ended the whole sum required to build a church of 1100 or 1200 sittings will be subscribed.”358
At Olrig, in the North, the foundation-stone was laid on the 28th of June by Mr. Mackenzie, the minister, and this having been done, “in the evening after the labours of the day were over the people turned out to gather materials to build the walls. Upwards of 100 men commenced carrying from the sea-shore to the beach large stones, to which there was no access by carts, some of them bearing their burdens on hand-barrows – some bearing them on their backs.”359
At Tobermory, in the Island of Mull, a site was obtained from Mr. Caldwell. Next day, “a number of the people commenced quarrying and blasting stones, others clearing the foundation, under the superintendence of two aged and experienced tradesmen, chosen by the people at a meeting held for arranging matters, and for appointing a committee of management to guide our proceedings, and among other becoming resolutions it was agreed that no person was to be employed about the work found guilty of taking excess of ardent spirits, or swearing of any kind. The foundation-stone was laid on the 14th July. The Rev. P. Maclean, our minister, attended, … read the 7th chapter of 2 Samuel, and offered up a most impressive prayer in the hearing of the multitude, who united in their Amen. Lime and gravel have been brought to the stance by boatmen, mostly free from freight, as their aid to build the Free Church. Masons are offering a week of their labour gratis; some with horses and carts work to the value of a pound sterling, and poor labourers do work generally six and seven days, to some of whom we are obliged to give meal while serving some of their time, for which they work, in addition to the time subscribed for. Such is the poverty of most of the people that the plan is unavoidably necessary. … However, we are resolved to show that what we can do we shall do.”360
“At Aberdour, Fifeshire, a beautiful and central site for the Free Church has been procured from Robert Anderson, Esq., … and such is the life and energy of the people that every night from 50 to 100 men, after closing their daily labour, are to be seen working with all their might till dark, gratuitously, at the building.”361
From a parish in Caithness, a report comes in the month of June: “The people are most impatient to have the church up, and last evening old and young turned out – eighty spades were at work – and in less than half-an-hour the foundation was dug out, and before two hours had elapsed the earth was all disposed of in making up some hollow ground in the neighbourhood. Nothing can exceed the enthusiasm of all parties. We are the first to commence, and I hope in the course of three months the roof will be on. The wood for the roof and floor is ordered. Lime and stone we have. The farmers turn out tomorrow to the cartage, and the masons commence on the 26th to the side walls.”362
In this way the humbler classes evinced their attachment to the cause which they had at heart. Any one who has stood, as the writer has, in the midst of such a group of workers on these occasions, must have felt what a labour of love it was. They were joyful scenes at the time, and in after days the very fact of the people having themselves put a hand to the work, attached them to the building in a way which no money contributions could have done. Ever afterwards the church was felt to belong personally to themselves.
One of the most remarkable examples of the extent to which the people sometimes carried this feeling – identifying themselves with their church – occurred at Methven, Perthshire.
“Considerably more than a hundred years ago, Mr. Graham, of Balgowan (Lord Lynedoch), was one day passing through the village of Methven, on his return from shooting, when a dog, suddenly rushing out from a house, frightened his horse. Mr. Graham instantly levelled his fowling-piece and shot the dog, at the same time, unfortunately, wounding a child sitting on the doorstep. In order to make up matters with the father, he purchased from the laird of Methven about an acre of ground, contiguous to the man’s house, and presented it to him, as a solatium for the rash act he had committed. On that piece of ground the Free Church is built. When I came to the place, upwards of thirty-one years ago, that child, was still alive, upwards of eighty years of age, a member of the Free Church, and she prided herself not a little on the facts above stated. She was then a pauper, and unable to contribute anything for the good cause, but she considered that in the providence of God she had been honoured to do more for the Free Kirk than any one in this quarter, inasmuch as while ‘others gae their siller to help to build it, she was shot to get a site for it.'”363.
But now, instead of multiplying such details, it may be best to select some examples of parishes in different parts of the country, where the narratives can be given with some degree of fulness, enabling the reader to judge of what was actually going forward, and how building operations were being carried on under difficulties.
The first case is that of Latheron, in the North, where we find Mr. Davidson, after building the four or five churches which he lost at the Disruption, entering once more, with characteristic ardour, into the same congenial work.
“Measures were taken for the immediate erection of a church to accommodate the same number of sitters as the one we had left, viz., about 800, and the management of the whole concern committed to myself. The site, contractor, and materials for building and roofing were got on very reasonable terms; for it so happened, providentially for the Free Church, that a large vessel laden with foreign timber was cast ashore on the coast, and the whole cargo purchased at a low price by a very zealous Free Churchman; and all the churches built that season in the county were supplied with wood of the best quality, at a very cheap rate. The foundation-stone of our church was laid with great solemnity in the beginning of September, and the building was so far finished as to admit of our worshipping in it in the end of December. The people cheerfully gave their labour in quarrying stones and carrying all the materials, so that, when finished, the cost did not exceed £350. Thus the work went on prosperously until brought to a speedy conclusion, for although little obstacles occasionally presented themselves, they were always easily removed, and sometimes in ways rather remarkable.
“At one time six lintels were wanted for the windows, and the man in charge came and told me that they had been trying to get such in the quarry for a week back and had not succeeded, and unless procured without delay the work would be stopped. This was rather serious, as the only quarry where such could be purchased was eighteen miles distant. I therefore asked him to make one trial more, and went with him, but he thought it would be in vain. I said, we must try; so we examined it, and at a particular place I said, ‘What if you should try that, as the bed seems long and narrow?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied; ‘but it is so bound that a shot may break it in pieces, but will not move the whole; only, to please you I will try.’ So he did. The whole bed was moved to a considerable depth, and next day he told me that it had just furnished the six solid lintels, and neither more or less.
“Another somewhat remarkable occurrence happened a week or two afterwards. We had forgotten to provide freestone spurs for receiving the skews on the gables, and none were to be had nearer than the towns of Thurso or Wick, distant respectively twenty-three and seventeen miles. This would occasion delay; and an attempt was being made to prepare them of common stone, when a large stone resembling freestone was reported as discovered on a hill about a mile distant. A workman was sent to examine it, and found that it was real freestone. It was easily broken up, and conveyed to the building, and out of it the spurs required were all furnished. How or when this block of stone came to be here no one could tell, as the hill was entirely barren, covered with moss and heath, without any trace of the humblest dwelling within half-a-mile of it, and no account of anything of the kind having ever been found in the locality, or, indeed, in the parish before or since. These little incidents struck us very forcibly at the time, and I can hardly omit noticing them as tending to cheer us in the work.”364
Beside this example from the far North, we place the case of Westruther, in the South, where difficulties of the most formidable kind had to be overcome. “So hostile,” says Mr. Wood, “was the feeling towards the newly-organised Free Church of Scotland, that every one of the heritors of the parish combined to refuse every facility toward the building of a place of worship. Spottiswoode of that ilk, the Earl of Lauderdale, Ker Seymour of Cattleshiels, Lord Blantyre of Wedderlie, Curle of Evelaw, and Home of Bassendean, would, if they could, have prevented us from obtaining a site on which to build. In this matter, however, I had been beforehand with them, and had secured a portion of a feu in the village sufficient for the purpose, and the missive was signed before any one knew anything about it. Fortunate it was that I had succeeded in this, for every attempt was made to prevent our getting possession. The disposition had been drawn up, and the lawyer from Dunse had fixed a day for its being executed, when the proprietor informed us that he had changed his mind, and did not intend to sell. He was immediately told that if he did not execute the disposition an action would be raised to compel him, and the costs paid out of the price of the land; and as he found on inquiry that he was bound by his missive, he consented with a sufficiently bad grace to sign the deed, on which we immediately took infeftment.
“Our site was thus secured, but every quarry and every sand-pit in the neighbourhood was closed against us. Wood we could procure, and lime; but the other necessaries for building were not within our reach. In these circumstances, I applied to one whom I am proud to call my friend, the late James Cunningham, of Coldstream, then at Greenlaw. Few men have more cheerfully hazarded all for the principles which they held than he did. At the time when I became acquainted with him, he was in the employment of the county as architect, surveyor of roads, &c. He was naturally inclined towards Liberal sentiments, which made him give some attention to the progress of the conflict that ended in the Disruption, and it was not long before he recognised the higher and holier principles involved in it. Then he heartily cast in his lot with the Evangelical party. No one who knows how county business is managed, especially in such a county as Berwickshire, will be surprised to learn that Mr. Cunningham was looked on coldly because of his Liberal sentiments; that his leaving the Established Church at the Disruption was considered to be an offence, and his giving counsel to me regarding the building of a Free Church, when the land-owners had resolved that, if they could help it, no Free Church should be erected at Westruther, was held to be a dereliction of duty to his employers. All this time, frankly, freely, generously he gave his valuable assistance, and I never heard a word drop from his lips which indicated the slightest reluctance to expose himself to peril, which he must very well have known was hanging over his head. …
“But, to return to my narrative, I laid all my difficulties before my counsellor – no stone, no sand; how are we to build the church? ‘We must not be beat,’ said he; ‘if we cannot build of stone, we’ll build of wood.’ And, accordingly, he drew out a plan for such a structure. It was to consist of wooden pillars resting on stone sockets, for we had the means of securing a sufficient number of stones for this purpose, and the space between the pillars was to be filled up with planking. With this I returned home, well-pleased to find that we would not be obliged to succumb. But matters turned out somewhat better than we expected. A few days after this, and before any steps had been taken toward the erection, I was told, late in the evening, that a man wanted to speak to me, who would not give his name. On being shown into my study, he divested himself of wrappers which had hitherto concealed his identity, and I recognised the familiar face of a feuar in the village. ‘Mr. Wood,’ said he, ‘I hear that ye’re gaun to be sair pit till’t to get yer kirk built, and though I havena joined ye, yet I like ill to see ye beat. I dinna ken about stanes, but I think I can help ye to sand. My feu, ye ken, lies next to your bit land. Noo, I hear ye canna get sand, and I’m bound to tell ye that there’s a vein of extraordinary fine building sand in my ground, and I mak nae doot it gangs through to yours. Ye hae only to dig, and ye’ll find plenty o’ sand. But be sure ye dinna let on that I tell’t ye, for I dinna want to hae onybody’s ill-will on my head.’ Having said his say, he muffled himself up again so as not to be recognised, and took his departure. The vein of sand was found exactly as had been described, and the discovery in some degree altered our plan. We began to collect all the stones to be found in the neighbourhood. A friendly farmer carted down for us all that were lying at the corners of his fields, and, if I recollect right, was threatened for doing so. In the end we found ourselves able to build a low wall a foot and a-half above the ground, into which the stone sockets were built which supported the wooden pillars; while the interval between the pillars was filled up with a wall four inches thick, built of small stones and mortar, instead of the planking which had been at first proposed. The roof, as the fashion was in Disruption days, was made of tarred canvas, and indeed our walls would not have borne a heavier fabric. Our church lasted for nine or ten years, by which time the hostility to the Free Church had ceased to manifest itself in the same outrageous fashion, and the temporary building was replaced by a solid and comfortable structure of stone, which was formally opened on the 1st of November, 1854.”365
A third example we take from Muthill, Perthshire, in one of the central districts of Scotland. It will show with what indomitable perseverance the difficulties of many country parishes were met and overcome. Mr. Douglas, one of the licensed probationers of the Church, had been appointed to serve there for a time, and tells how he found the people in a state of discouragement. “On calling a meeting the evening after I arrived, I found them warm in the cause, but labouring under the impression that they would never be able to build a church nor to get a minister for themselves. … They had collected up to the second week of June only £29 for the building and Sustentation Fund. My first object was to assure them that they must have both a church of their own and a settled minister among them, and accordingly we made arrangements for working vigorously during a collecting week to raise more funds for building. The week came and passed, and the sum total of the collection was only £11. This was a proof that the fear of having no church of their own was chilling and damping all their efforts. …
“It was no easy matter to get this fear altogether removed, for as the people began to be convinced of the willingness of the church at large to help them, they began to see and to feel difficulties which the church had not the power to remove. No site could be obtained – no stones – no sand for building could be had on any terms. We had held many meetings, to which all friendly parties were freely admitted. There was nominally a committee, but it consisted of all who chose to come and offer advice. We had thus every engine at work. Some were appointed to inquire for a site, some for stones, some for building sand, and most earnestly did they fulfil their tasks. But all returned with the same answer – no site, stones, or sand could be obtained for love or money. There were some feus for sale in the village, but there were legal difficulties connected with every one of them, which we saw no prospect of removing. The factor, who had the disposal of the land all around, was applied to by as influential a deputation as we could muster. That deputation waited on” him, “and tried all possible means to obtain what we needed, but the stern reply was, no site, no stones, no sand. There was plenty at our very doors, and we offered payment, but nothing could we get.366
“Hitherto all was dark. Some were despairing, many were beginning to consider what congregation in the neighbourhood they should join – not one thought of going back, not one left us. Meanwhile, I had been reappointed to serve some time longer in the Presbytery, and still to reside in Muthill. But there was less prospect than ever of getting a church, and consequently of forming a permanent congregation. However, our efforts were still continued. We were persecuted, but not forsaken; we were perplexed, but not in despair. At last light began to dawn. An old man in the village offered to give us a part of his garden as a site, and as there was no proper entry, he agreed to let us a small house in front, part of which might be removed to form an entry. We took the whole on a lease for fifty years, the longest period he would agree to, and engaged to pay £4, 8s. as rent.
“Thus, then, we had got a site, but not a stone could be had to build on it, neither could we get sand. Here we met with a most striking providence. Two men, masons, whom we had appointed to scour the country far and wide in search of building sand, were on their way to a place six miles off, where they thought they might get it. In crossing along they saw a huge heap of stones in a field, almost hidden by young trees. They went aside to look at them, and though they were great coarse boulders of the most unpromising kind, the men thought they would do for building, provided they could be obtained. Being satisfied of this, they went directly to the proprietor and stated the case. He received them most kindly, and gave them a full free grant of the whole heap. It contained 700 or 800 cartloads, which had been dug out of the land and heaped up there ten years before. The place was four miles distant from the site, but no toll to pay for cartage. The proprietor who thus dealt so kindly toward us was Mr. Gillespie Graham, of Orchill.
“The two men were overjoyed. They went next to Braco Castle, and waited on Mr. G.D. Stewart. He gave them at once a free grant of as much sand as they might need. They came back rejoicing. Our way so far was now plain; we had a site, and stones, and sand for building, but we had little or no money. We had a distant promise of help from the Building Committee in Edinburgh, but we had only £35 in hand to go on with, and the month of July was already past.
“We determined, however, to proceed. We already began to say to one another, surely the Lord is preparing our way, and we trusted that as He had now removed so many strange and apparently insurmountable obstacles, He would in due time enable us to surmount all that might meet us. We felt that what had been accomplished on our behalf was a call to go on in faith. Accordingly, plans were sketched out for the proposed building, and one for 676 sittings, with galleries, was approved of. Specifications for the walls were written out, and a contract taken for building them. Some in the congregation disapproved of this step. They thought it rash – nay, madness, to commence building a church for nearly 700 persons, with only £35 in hand, and without knowing where we are to get another penny. It certainly did seem rashness, but the reasons which moved us to attempt building so large a church with such small funds in hand could not be understood except by those who were on the spot at the time, and acquainted with the general state of feeling among the people. We acted, as we thought, for the best. We could count on all the cartage of materials free, and we thought that our £35 would meet some incidental expenses till the walls would be finished, and then we could go to the people and ask more money. We went even further – we bought wood for roof and floors, and took contracts for finishing the whole outer shell of the church without ever attempting to raise more money.
“We were in this state, the work going on in the month of November. The Assembly met in Glasgow, … and I shall never forget the feelings awakened within me when in giving in one of the reports, Dr. Chalmers spoke of the pernicious madness of a congregation in the North, who proposed to build a church for 700, with less than £40 in their subscription books. Perhaps he alluded to some other, but I felt that it could be no other than my own poor congregation (I had been ordained to the pastoral charge of it in September). I felt crushed by the expression, but was relieved a good deal when the Rev. Dr. said he would name no names.
“On my return from the Assembly, I found the work still going on. The roof was up and the slates ready to put on. It was high time to get more cash. We were already in debt for upwards of £200, and our £35 was all spent. We resolved to try another subscription, although the two previous trials had yielded only £35. The great bulk of the people had said they would subscribe no more till they saw a church built; not a very likely way, certainly, to get a church, but such was their determination, and so strong, that we saw it vain to attempt overcoming it. But we could now go to the people and meet them on their own ground – the church was built. Accordingly, the collectors were furnished with books, a week appointed for collecting, an appeal made to the people on the Sabbath, and it was well answered. In less than a week we had collected about £100. This surprised everybody – the people were so poor. However, this sum was not enough. Another effort must be made. A day was fixed, about a month thereafter, for opening the church, which was as yet only a mere shell, fitted up with temporary benches on the ground floor. The day was stormy, but £57 was collected at the church door, and the highest offering was £1 note. This astonished every one, and did more to confound our adversaries than anything that had yet happened. About the same time we got £169 from the General Building Fund. Thus we were out of debt, all things paid for, and £80 in the bank.
“We now saw our way more clearly. The people were in better spirits. They saw more what they could do. Yet every one felt disposed to admire the wonderful providence by which our matters had hitherto been overruled.
“In the spring of 1844 we behoved to make further efforts. The church was not half-finished. Contracts were taken for finishing it. Another subscription was raised in May, 1844, and when the work was finished we had another opening collection in November, which produced £26. In that month the seats were allocated, and the congregation requested to contribute whatever they felt able as entry-money for the seats. This produced nearly £30. Still there was debt, and some work to do in fittings and painting, &c. &c. Another subscription was raised to meet these demands, and exceeded them. Thus every farthing of debt was paid, and a balance over.”367
In the midst of these struggles, however, there was one favourable circumstance which should not be forgotten – the low rate of building materials and wages in 1843. If the price had been what it soon afterwards became, it would have been hard, even with all the self-denial of the Church’s friends, to have contended with the difficulties of such an undertaking. But in the providence of God it was so ordered that there was little demand for building operations in the country, except the building of these churches.
“Many remarked,” Dr. Lorimer, of Glasgow, states, “the moderate cost of building in that year. It was commonly said that the same buildings a few years later would have cost one-third more.”368
In 1845, Mr. Earle Monteith, in giving in the report on the New College, mentioned that, “from circumstances which are too well known to require illustration, the rate of wages and the price of materials have so much increased, that although when the estimates were made out it would have been built for £20,000, we have learned from Mr. Playfair that if it is to be built now, there will be 25 per cent. of an increase on the estimates, and that which will now cost £25,000 might have been built last year (1844) at a cost of £20,000.”369
Even in 1844 one of the Glasgow newspapers states: “We are informed that the advance in the price of American timber within the last twelvemonths has been nearly 50 per cent.”370
Thus rapidly were the prices going up. It was surely one of the providential circumstances connected with the Disruption that at a time when 700 churches had to be erected the building trades had less employment of any other kind than had been known for a long course of years, and that both wages and the price of building materials had sunk to a point which they have not often reached.
There is a deeply-seated instinct of the Scottish national character which occasionally came into view – the desire, amidst the activities of the present, to keep hold of the memories of the past.
Sometimes it appeared in connection with trivial circumstances. The old parish church of Stevenston dated back to Roman Catholic times, and when a new church was erected, the old weather-cock had been given to Major Martin, who made a present of it to Mr. Landsborough. It had been fixed in one of the outhouses of the manse, but at the flitting after the Disruption, Mr. Landsborough did not forget it, “and when Saltcoats Free Church was completed, the poor cock, who had fallen from his high estate and passed through many vicissitudes, was again exalted to his former dignity, where he looks as proud and self-important as when he presided over ‘the auld kirk o’ Steynstoune.'”371
Sometimes it came in a form which appealed to more solemn memories. At Muirkirk, the people met on the 27th of August, when addresses were delivered and services held for two hours, which ended in the singing of the last verses of Psalm 122. “A blue silk banner, having a St. Andrew’s cross in faded white on the upper and inner border, and a dark-coloured crown over a thistle opposite, with the words painted brown in the centre, ‘Moorkirk – For God – King and Covenant,’ and which is said to have seen service at Drumclog, was furnished for the occasion by Mr. John Gemmill, farmer at Garple, in the parish, to whose family this heirloom has now descended from the Campbells of Auldhouse Burn, also in the parish.”372 It is not difficult in such an incident – the carrying forth of that old, faded, blue-silk banner – to read what the sentiments were which filled men’s hearts when they met together to lay the foundation-stone of their church.
But now, in the midst of these difficulties on the one hand, and that assistance on the other, we may note the progress of church building. It was marked and rapid. In May, 1844 – one year after the Disruption – 470 churches were reported as already built and completed, or on the point of immediate completion. Fifty of the quoad sacra churches were still retained, so that as the result of one year’s work, 520 congregations were already provided for.
In May, 1845, sixty additional churches were reported as finished.
Again, in 1846, ninety-five new churches were added, and in May, 1847, fifty-five more were reported. Thus, at the end of four years, considerably more than 700 churches had been provided.
Among the hundreds of buildings thus put up, it must be admitted that there were many whose architectural appearance was of the humblest kind. The Free Church might well be satisfied, indeed, with the skill of those architects – men of high standing – who, with more than professional zeal, gave their services to the cause. But their task was difficult. The grant from the general fund was at the rate of five shillings a-sitting. In many cases the poverty of the people did not allow of their raising any adequate additional sum,373 and very humble buildings, therefore, had to be erected. Even in the larger towns, wealthy congregations vied with each other in the effort to make their churches cheap and plain, in order that they might be able the more liberally to help their poorer brethren in the country.
And yet, in spite of all this, cases were not awanting in which cheapness of construction was combined with no small measure of architectural effect. This was seen, for example, at Saltcoats, where a site was obtained, as we saw, through the kindness of Dr. Dow. “The ground,” Dr. Landsborough writes, “was in an excellent situation, but, as it was triangular, we feared that it might not answer as a site of a church, especially as a person of some architectural skill said that it was out of the question. Knowing the high character of Mr. Cousin, of Edinburgh, as an architect, we applied to him for advice, giving him a plan of the ground. He wrote, that a church containing 700 sittings might be erected on it, but that it would require a special plan.” Though they had to keep within fifteen shillings a-sitting, it is stated: “We have got not only a cheap and substantial church, but one which is tasteful in its external appearance, and still more so in its internal arrangements. I am more than borne out in all that I have stated by what was said to me by a baronet, not only of good taste, but of so much acknowledged worth, that I wish I could say he is a Free Churchman. ‘I have just been admiring,’ said he, ‘your new church. It and the church at Ascog, in Bute, are the most beautiful churches in Scotland.’ ‘That is highly complimentary, Sir _____,’ said I. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘but the compliment is merited.'”374
The most remarkable, however, of such cases, was the building erected for the three leading congregations in Aberdeen. The site was the finest in that city, and was admirably turned to account by the architect who had been selected. One of the local newspapers, far from friendly to the Free Church, described the building at the time of its opening as having “added a new and strikingly picturesque feature to the already numerous architectural embellishments of our city. The fabric is composed of a group of three churches, and when viewed from Union Bridge has the aspect of a cathedral. … In the angle, formed by the nave and south transept, rises a lofty square tower, from which springs a spire of the most airy proportions. The height of the tower is 90 feet, and of the spire, 84; making the whole elevation above the ground level 174 feet, and above the Denburn, 204 feet. … The style of the fabric, which is most chastely and appropriately sustained throughout, is that of the simple lancet Gothic. The effect of the group is extremely imposing and picturesque, partly owing to the advantages of the site selected for the fabric. Perhaps the most picturesque view of the building is obtained from a point in Union Terrace, where the great western window, tower, and spire are partially revealed through the intervening foliage. The building is from a design from Mr. Archibald Simpson of this city, and deserves to be classed with the most successful specimens of his skill, genius, and taste. We understand the whole expense of the building [containing 3446 sittings in the three churches] will be under £5000. Considerations of economy suggested the employment of the least expensive materials, and the result has been a remarkable exemplification to how great account such means may be turned in the hands of professional talent.”375 It is only right to state that much of this success was due to Francis Edmond, Esq., advocate, who rendered valuable service, first in securing the site, and afterwards in carrying through the undertaking.
Thus, amidst the co-operation of many willing hands, hundreds of churches, in very various forms rose over the land. There were interesting days connected with the laying of the foundation-stones, and not less interesting scenes at the opening of the churches themselves. In the great majority of cases, winter had come before the buildings were ready. Of the incidents connected with the opening services, a few examples may be given.
The Free Church of Gatehouse (Girthon) was opened on the 8th December. “No doubt, many of the congregation called to remembrance the dying prayer of their late much-beloved pastor [Mr. Jeffrey], when he said, in reference to this building, ‘Let the copestone be brought forth with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace, unto it!’. … Every pew and passage was crowded to excess.”376
At Torphichen, the Free Church was opened by Dr. Hetherington, on Sabbath, the 6th August. It is seated for 400, but the day was fine, and soon after the door was opened the building was filled, there being within the walls nearly 500, and many were standing in the porch and round the doors. The meeting displayed not only the greatest regularity, earnestness, and order, but repeatedly manifested deep emotion when even a brief reference was made to the solemn circumstances of the event.377
“At the end of November, 1845, our new church [Ayr] was opened by the Rev. Dr. Brown, of Free St. John’s, Glasgow; and the Rev. Dr. Candlish, of Free St. George’s, Edinburgh. Our opening collection amounted to £300, then thought a large sum. The church cost £3300. In preaching for the last time in the wooden church, my text had been, ‘If Thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.’ I still remember the thrill of delight with which I heard Dr. Brown give out the first text in our new church – ‘My presence shall go with thee.’ The people thought that Dr. Brown and I had arranged it thus. But it was not so. It was only the night before that Dr. Brown had learned what my text had been, and I did not know what his text was until I heard it from the pulpit.”378
The feelings with which the people entered on the possession of their new churches were sometimes very openly shown. “We are all very anxious,” one writes, 4th November, 1843, “at the thought of being two more Sundays in the barn. Last day some of the people were trembling with cold the whole time.” Again, 23rd November – “We had a beautiful day last Sabbath for the opening – the roads hard and dry, the church packed full. I wish you could have seen the faces of the people, who are not great adepts at concealing their feelings, each looking as if the church was his own individual concern. … And oh! the faces of some of them as they came out; they seemed to feel as if it were a subject beyond speaking about.”
Of the minister’s feelings in his opening services, we give a single example from the sermon of Dr. Candlish when entering his new church in the Lothian Road. “It was a grand Gospel sermon,” says Mr. Maclagan, “very full of solemnity, in argument and appeal. The roll of that musical voice is perhaps in the ears of others as it is in mine, when with these words, thrilling like a prophet’s warning, he concluded: ‘Such is our Gospel. We have considered, brethren, how best we might improve this occasion of the opening of our new house of prayer, and we have been led to take advantage of it for bringing before you, as God enabled us, a simple summary of the evangelical message in its connection with the sovereignty which it asserts on the one hand, and the submission which it requires on the other.
“’Nor does it seem necessary to add more than a single remark. Your presence in this sanctuary, and my occupying this chair of truth, pledge us mutually – you to hear, and me to proclaim this counsel of God. May the Lord give us grace to be faithful. Or, if ever the time shall be when you, or those who come after you to fill these seats, may refuse to hear this wholesome doctrine; or when I, or those who take my place in this pulpit, may shun to declare it – sooner may this fair and goodly structure crumble in the dust, and of all its ample walls not one stone be left upon another that shall not be cast down.'”379
But while men were thankful thus to enter their churches, yet there were sacred memories connected with many of those temporary places of worship which were fondly cherished, and in some cases they found touching expression in various forms.
Thus, at Kilsyth, Dr. Burns states: “Our people have a sweet recollection of the meetings we have had at the tent by the Garrel stream. The summer following we had one meeting there, on a warm Sabbath-day, as a pleasing renovation and reminiscence of those days gone by.”380
At Greenock, during the time that the Gaelic congregation were worshipping in the old dilapidated West Church, three communions were dispensed; “and solemn communion seasons they were, Mr. M’Bean (the pastor) often remarking to his friends, in the course of conversation, that he enjoyed much of his Master’s presence on these occasions.”381
Of the wooden churches, that which outlasted all others was the church at Monzie, erected at the expense of Mr. Campbell, then M.P. for Argyllshire. Mr. Omond states: “It was more commodious than ornamental; but it was comfortable, and its acoustics were perfect. It was completed and taken possession of on the 27th August. It was replaced in 1868 by a permanent and more beautiful structure; but hallowed memories cluster round the old place – memories of a time when the Lord’s goings were heard in that sanctuary, and when much blessing was experienced by many who have left the service on earth for the higher service above.”382
With similar feelings, Mr. Maclagan refers to the memorable brick church in Castle Terrace, which Dr. Candlish and his congregation occupied at first as a temporary place of worship. “I cannot allow myself to part from the brick church without a few words. I know not how it may be with others among us who remember our services there, but to me its memories are inexpressibly solemn and tender. The Disruption, no doubt, was a quickening time in the highest and best sense, but it was also a time full of affecting associations and painful regrets. Both combined made the eighteen months of our brick-church worship very memorable. Its communions were singularly impressive occasions, and there are other days of bright and hallowed service which are quite unforgettable. It was at the July Communion of 1843 that Dr. Chalmers preached, with wonderful vigour, on the Sabbath evening from the text, ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved’ (Jer. 8:20) – the sermon published in his works. It may be sentimentalism, or that tenderness with which as our years increase upon us we regard old times and places, but whatever may be its origin, I have a feeling of refreshing and revival as I look back upon the brick church. One of our poets has expressed the experience I refer to –
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue.'”383
One more illustration we take from a country parish in East Lothian, as described by Mr. Dodds, partly in prose and partly in verse. “I preached during the whole summer in Humbie Dean, from the tent that was erected every Sabbath morning. The spot where we met was a hollow in the steep bank, formed by the hand of nature, and overshadowed by tall trees. It was a secluded and romantic place, and most convenient for our purpose. Both the people and myself became much attached to it, and it is now famous in the parish of Humbie.384
We met each Sabbath day.
* * * *
“There, oft the father gave his child
In covenant to God,
And vowed to rear it in the paths
His faithful fathers trod.
God’s grace be with the little babes
Who thus in faith have been
Baptised with water from the brook
In lovely Humbie Dean.
“And there one holy Sabbath day,
The blest Communion board
We spread in reverence and love –
The table of the Lord.
We brake the bread, and drank the wine,
And oh! what things unseen;
We saw so clear, and felt so near,
In lovely Humbie Dean.
“Oh! never let from me depart
The memory of that place,
Where on the worn and weary heart
Fell such sweet showers of grace.
And may we meet before the throne.
Our robes washed white and clean.
Who met as followers of the Lamb
In lovely Humbie Dean.”’
The Sustentation Fund
By whom first conceived
Its Main Principles
Dr. Chalmers’s Account of its Success
Self-denial among Ministers
Slow Increase of the “Equal Dividend”
“Power of Littles”
Dr. R. Buchanan’s Management
Instances of Liberality
Its apparent Stability
The first step, then, had been successfully taken – the building of churches was provided for. But there was another demand, not less immediately urgent. Incomes must be found for the hundreds of ministers whose livings had been sacrificed, and religious ordinances must be supplied in answer to those appeals of the people, which came from every district, and from almost every parish in the land. To meet the demands of such an emergency it was evident that some special effort would be required.
The keen discussions of the voluntary controversy had so far prepared the way. There had been laid bare – as was believed – one point of weakness in the system of those Dissenting Churches, where each was left, financially, to stand alone. In not a few weak and struggling congregations there was much that was trying both to minister and people, while in poor and thinly-peopled districts, like those of the Highlands, Dissent had hardly been able to obtain a footing. Now the claim of the Free Church to be the true National Church of Scotland made it necessary to supply ordinances to her adherents all over the country, and nowhere more than in those Highland districts into which Dissent had hitherto been unable to penetrate.
It was to meet the demands of such an undertaking that the Sustentation Fund was instituted – a bold experiment, for which there was really no precedent anywhere in the history of the Christian Church, and which deserves special attention as constituting the peculiar and distinctive feature of Free Church finance. Under God it was due to the marvellous sagacity of Dr. Chalmers, from whose mind it came forth at the time of the Convocation, elaborated and complete, down almost to its minutest detail.
The general idea of the scheme was, that for the purposes of this fund the whole Free Church should be combined into one great confederacy, where each congregation should do its part in sustaining the whole, and the whole should sustain each congregation. This grand principle of share and share alike was first announced by Dr. Candlish, in August, 1841, and it came well from his lips as minister of the wealthiest congregation in the Church. No less nobly was the same sentiment uttered by Dr. Chalmers: “It is well that the ministers of our most remote and destitute localities should know that they have the capability of the whole religious public of Scotland to count upon; yea, more, it were one of the most precious fruits of this arrangement, that the very oldest of our ministers, those venerable fathers who have borne the burden and heat of the day, perhaps unable to labour, yet unwilling and ashamed to remain in fellowship with a Church that has bowed the knee to an Erastian domination – it were indeed a heartfelt satisfaction to assure all such that they will not be forsaken by their brethren at large, but that, admitted to the highest place of honour in the Free and unfettered Church of Scotland, they, to the day of their death, will be made to participate equally and alike with them in the joint-offerings of her children.”385
Such was the great principle, the corner-stone on which the Sustentation Fund was built. But it was obvious from the first that much would depend on the practical arrangements by which the scheme was carried out. With marvellous skill on the part of Dr. Chalmers, these were elaborated and adjusted so as to work in harmony with the general principles of our Presbyterian system. In every parish an association was to be formed, of collectors to go the round of the families month by month, or oftener, and to receive such contributions as were offered. These collectors were placed in connection with the deacons and other office-bearers of each congregation, under whose management the whole proceedings were to be conducted; and periodically the amount of these contributions was to be remitted to the great central treasury of the Church, out of which the ministers were each to receive an equal dividend.
If this had been all, however, it is obvious that an equal dividend would have been the most unequal of all arrangements – the expense of maintaining the social position of a minister in certain localities being so much greater than in others.
Along with the Sustentation Fund, therefore, there was conjoined another – the Congregational Fund – to enable the people in each parish, by collections or otherwise, to supplement the income of their own pastor according to their ability. By means of this twofold arrangement, scope was given for appealing to the most powerful motives, for in contributing to the General Sustentation Fund, men would be acting from the pure and high principle of looking not on their own things but on the things of others – the generous feeling that they were standing side by side with their poorer brethren, in providing the ordinances of the Gospel throughout the most remote localities in the land. On the other hand, in contributing to the Congregational Fund, men were acting under the motive to which the Apostle appeals – “Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth,”&c. The home feeling of affectionate personal regard for their own pastor, – the satisfaction of ministering in carnal things to him who was ministering to them in things spiritual – would thus have free scope, and so these two funds were intended to act as combined forces, each strengthening the other in building up the Church, and fostering the interests of congregations in every separate locality.
Such was the general idea of the fund as announced beforehand. Then came the practical object, to which, with characteristic ardour, Dr. Chalmers directed his energies, the actual setting up and putting in motion of the machinery by which the fund was to be wrought.
First, there was a loud and earnest appeal for men to give their aid as collectors. “In ordinary times, and for ordinary objects, the management of religious appeals is entrusted to a few, and those who are specially invited or appointed to the task of collection go forth on the good errand, while others do not run because they have not been sent.
“It must be otherwise in a movement like ours. For a work so large, and entitled to the best exertions of all, we invite every man and every woman in whom is found willingness of mind and concern for the glory of the Redeemer’s crown, to hold themselves appointed to this work, as if they had been personally selected and called by name.”
Female help was specially invited. “Whether we look for a greater enthusiasm at the outset, or for patient, untiring duteous attention and assiduity afterwards, for devotedness of purpose and principle, followed up by diligent and ever-doing performance, it will be found in greatest readiness and perfection among the members of a female agency, who still, as in the purely apostolic times of Paul, are ready to give themselves up, like Phoebe of old, as servants of the Church; or like Priscilla, to be our helpers in Christ Jesus; or like Mary, to bestow much labour on us; or like Tryphena and Tryphosa, who laboured in the Lord; or Persis, who laboured much in the Lord.”386
The spirit in which they were to go forth was laid down – two things being specially insisted on.
First, there must be earnest prayer. “We trust there has been amongst you much fervent and special prayer for a blessing on this effort, for guidance and direction to all who shall take part in it, and that you are in a state of preparedness for going forth on your holy duty, seeking that in you and by you the Lord may be glorified.”
Then, special care must be taken to repress the spirit of controversy. “Cease, as we have already counselled you, from all debate. Let not your voice be heard in the streets. In the spirit of meekness let the object at which we aim be plainly, truly, firmly, but temperately stated. … Ours is a spiritual warfare, our weapons are spiritual also. We seek to establish no domination, to wage warfare with none around us; but our heart is set upon maintaining a testimony for God in the land.”387
It was in this way that the work of the collectors must be done. But it was not enough to send forth these appeals and instructions: Dr. Chalmers resolved to go before, and show the way.
Few who heard him can forget the scene when he stood on the platform of the first Free Assembly, and told of the progress which had been made. “The great obstacle,” he said, “was the idea that the raising of so large a sum was an impossibility. By this thought some were paralysed, as it were, into despair. It was far easier practically to do the thing than to convince the people that the thing was practicable. The difficulty lay not in doing the work when begun, but wholly in getting it begun; not in the execution of its process after its commencement, but in overcoming the incredulity which stood as a barrier in the way of its commencement. … In order to overcome this in my own little sphere, and in a parish where eight-ninths of the aristocracy of the soil are against us, I did begin a little association – I mean the parish of Morningside. But we remained for six whole weeks in a state of single blessedness – we had not a single companion, but stood as a spectacle to be gazed at with a sort of gaping wonder till we actually felt our situation painful, and felt as if we stood on a pillory; but now that we have been followed by no less than 687 associations, our singularity, we begin to feel, sits rather gracefully upon us.” He recounted the results of a few weeks operations, and declared – “Experience has already made it palpable, and is making it more and more so every day, that these associations will prove the sheet-anchor, as it were, of the financial prosperity of our Protesting Church. Their individual contributions may be small, but the aggregate produce of them all will come to a much mightier sum than you will arrive at by casting up all the donations which the rich throw into the treasury.”
And then, rising from these details, he referred to the grand object of all such efforts. “You will recollect that though the application of the first portion of the fund goes towards – I will not say the support of the ejected ministers, but towards the upholding of the continuance of their services – yet, after that is secured, and after the maximum has been attained, the sums over and above contributed will go, not to the augmentation of ministerial income, but to the augmentation of ministerial services – not to the increase of the salaries of the ministers, but to the increase of their numbers; and we shall not stop short, I trust, in our great and glorious enterprise till, in the language you have already heard, the light of the Gospel be carried to every cottage door within the limits of the Scottish territory. You are familiar with the liberal and large-hearted aspirations of John Knox, when he talked of a college for every great town, and a minister for every thousand of the population. I will not specify at present any limits to our ministerial charges, but there is an indefinite field of Christian usefulness before us, and we must not let down our exertions till the optimism of our condition as a Church is fully realised.”388
With these noble aspirations the scheme of the Sustentation Fund was launched. One essential feature – referred to above – was the fixing of a maximum sum, which each minister should receive as an equal dividend. If the fund fell short, the dividend would be proportionally diminished to any extent; if the fund rose, the dividend should not rise beyond the fixed sum agreed on, and then the overflow would be applied to the extension of the Church.
At the meeting of the first Assembly, it was necessary to consider what this maximum amount should be, and on the 25th of May the question was taken up at a private meeting, from which reporters were excluded. The original idea which Dr. Chalmers had propounded at the Convocation in the previous November was, to fix the amount at £200 a-year. It was now pointed out, that if the outgoing ministers were to receive this sum it would greatly obstruct the advancement of the Church, by preventing the addition of new ministerial charges. On the other hand, there were some, chiefly among the laity, who advocated the larger amount in consideration of the sacrifices to which ministers had submitted, and in view of the fact, that in the great majority of rural parishes, the equal dividend would constitute the whole living. The result, however, was, that the general interests of the Church and of the people prevailed, and the lower sum was fixed. One of the most distinguished laymen – Alexander Thomson, Esq. of Banchory, a member of Assembly – refers to the circumstance in his diary, and bears his testimony to “the noble conduct of the ministers in taking £150 rather than £200.”389
In after-years the same spirit of self-denial was acted on. At first the understanding was, that the equal dividend thus fixed on must be reached before any extension should take place, and that only the overplus should be employed in adding to the number of ministerial charges. That, indeed, was the meaning of the arrangement. In practice, however, it was at once lost sight of. New congregations were constantly coming in considerable number, asking a place on the platform, certain to add new burdens and keep down the dividend; but none were so sure to vote for their reception as the ministers already dependent on the proceeds. For many a day, although the gross amount of the fund was steadily rising, no approximation was made to either of the sums which had been spoken of – the £150 or the £200.
For, indeed, the enterprise had at the outset great difficulties to contend with. There were many other clamant demands pressing on the people during those opening years, and a still greater obstacle was presented by the circumstance just referred to – the rapid multiplication of ministerial charges.
In the course of the first year the amount raised for the general fund was £61,000, but the ministers had increased to 583, and the stipend to each was only £105.
During the second year the sum had risen to £76,180, but the ministers were now 627, and the stipend was £122.
This was the process which, for a considerable number of years, went steadily forward. The fund was, on the whole, increasing, but the number of ministers increased also, and the ministerial income continued long to be far below what the Church desired to see.
There was, however, a still more serious question – could even this amount of success be relied on to continue in the future’ Amid the fervour and excitement of Disruption times, men’s hearts were opened, their contributions freely flowed, but as the years began to pass away, would not these sources of income gradually dry up’ It was no secret that this was what many of the adversaries of the Free Church confidently expected, and there were not a few even of her warmest friends who were unduly apprehensive.
In combating such fears, Dr. Chalmers set himself from the very outset to proclaim the necessity of looking to “the power of littles,” and to the steady working of associations, rather than to the generous donations of a few of the Church’s wealthy members. “To rest the prosperity of the Church on powerful but momentary appeals, and not on regularly working associations, were as grievously impolitic as to build our calculations for the agriculture of a country on the brawling winter torrents which perform their brief and noisy course in channels that soon run out, and are only known to have existed by the dry and deserted beds they have left behind them, instead of building our calculations and our hopes on those tiny but innumerable drops which fall in universal and fertilising showers on the thirsty ground that is beneath them.”390
With this view, Dr. Chalmers, at so early a period, struck the key-note – a penny a-week from every family in Scotland. In the hearing of the Convocation, he referred to the case of a clerical friend from the Island of Skye, to whom it had seemed impossible that the inhabitants of a certain parish in that island could give any assistance whatever, and that they must be altogether helped from without in keeping up the Gospel ministry amongst them. “When I asked whether absolutely nothing could be looked for – no, not even at the rate of a penny a-week from each household, he at once admitted, that if I came down to such a nothing, such a bagatelle as this, it could be easily afforded. Now, it is by just a putting together of such bagatelles, that I arrive at my conclusion, and I therefore repeat, that as far as the means are concerned we could obtain, and it is the very least and lowest computation we should think of making – we could obtain, after the loss of all our endowments, the sum of £100,000 in the year for the support of a Christian ministry in Scotland, without sensible encroachment on the comfort of any, without as much as the feeling of a sacrifice.”391
In the first General Assembly he returned to the subject. The success of the scheme would be “the achievement of many men, each doing a small thing. We deal, it is true, in the magnificent prediction of a magnificent result, but it is the result of a summation – the summation of little efforts made everywhere, nowhere of a strength that is gigantic. … We have thousands of collectors, but, as far as I know, not one giant among them; and hundreds of thousands of contributors, among whom we look for no other greatness than the moral greatness wherewith Christianity assimilates the men and women of all classes in society – from her who throws the widow’s mite, to him who throws the costly gift into the Church’s treasury. We count on no miracles, save those miracles of grace by which God makes a willing people in the day of His power, and through the operation of whose blessed Spirit it is that there are so many willing hearts as well as giving hands.”392
Once more, at the Assembly of 1844, he reverted to this favourite theme, when dealing with some Highland ministers who had been pleading the poverty of their people as disabling them from contributing. “I am only sorry,” he said, “when they were telling us of the inability of the people, that I did not put the question, whether the practice of snuffing was at all prevalent among them. Why, I believe that I could make out, by the Excise returns, that, in the Island of Islay alone, some £6000 a-year is spent on tobacco. The power of littles is wonderful. I began with pennies, I now come down to pinches, and say that, if we got but a tenth of the snuff used by Highlanders – every tenth pinch – it would enable us to support our whole ecclesiastical system in the Highlands. It is astonishing the power of infinitesimals. The mass of the planet Jupiter is made up of infinitesimals, and surely, after that, it is in the power of infinitesimals to make up a stipend for the minister of Ballachulish.”393
Such was the truth which, in every varied form, Dr. Chalmers enforced and urged. The strength of the Sustentation Fund lay, not in the large contributions of the wealthy, but in the numerous offerings of those in the middle and humbler ranks of life. It was on these that the safety and stability of the whole financial movement depended.
But, in connection with this, there was another and still more important truth – the springs of that liberality would be found to lie in the hearts and consciences of Christian men. Dr. R. Buchanan, into whose hands the management of the fund passed, and to whom it was so largely indebted, has said: “The dynamics of Church finance lie not in the physical force which silently backs the tax-gatherer’s demand, but in the region of conscience alone. What the Church member shall give, or whether he shall give at all, is a question between himself and God – a question in which he may be advised and exhorted, but on which he may not, by any human force, be compelled. He to whom the offering is professedly brought, will not have it given grudgingly, or of necessity. It has, and can have, no acceptance with Him, save in so far as it is brought, not by constraint, but willingly. And hence the true secret of abiding success for any system of Church finance, however wisely planned, will be found chiefly and ultimately to depend on the Church’s own practical efficiency in sustaining and cultivating the moral and spiritual life of its members. Superstition, indeed, may thrive and grow rich among an ignorant population; but in an intelligent community, true religion can obtain adequate support for its ordinances and institutions only in proportion as it is accomplishing its high end in the hearts and lives of men. If this greatest of all the factors out of which the result comes be not taken into account, no reliable calculation as to the efficiency of any system of Church finance can be made.”394
The great truth thus strikingly expressed and confirmed by long experience was just what Dr. Chalmers had no less strikingly proclaimed at the outset. “The contributions,” he says, “will rise or fall just with the rise or fall of personal Christianity among our people. It is to Him who toucheth and turneth the hearts of men whithersoever He will that we look for all our present and all our future sufficiency. … It is not to excitement, or novelty, or ingenious devices for raising money, or the transient impression of oratory from a platform on the feelings of an assembled multitude, or even to the influx of liberality from abroad – it is not to any or all of these put together that we would confide either the solid progress or the ultimate settlement and completion of our Church in these lands; but, under God, we hope for all our prosperity in the calm and steady growth of Christian and devoted principle in the midst of our congregations. In other words, our immediate or – so palpable is it, that we had almost said – our whole dependence for the enlargement of our means is on the visitation and descent of God’s own Spirit finding His way to human consciences, and making them alive to the urgencies and the claims of our great Home Mission, and to the sacred obligation, not of supporting our present ministrations alone, but of extending and carrying them forward among the perishing thousands of Scotland. This is alone the perennial fountain on which we reckon for all our abundance, which will only yield an overflow if fed by supplies of living water from the upper sanctuary – those supplies which are withheld from the vain and boastful confidence of man, and not given but to his humble and believing prayers.”395
Such were the views with which the Fund was commenced, and no sooner were they fairly set before the Church, than everywhere there was the most generous and cordial response. Nothing was more wonderful during those early years than the way in which all ranks, rich and poor, cast their gifts into the treasury. The few instances to which we here refer must be taken merely as common examples of the spirit which generally prevailed in the Church.
Dr. Guthrie writes from Edinburgh: “The people here, not excepting the folks of the Bow and Grassmarket, are in a very lively and resolute state. For example, Lord Medwyn’s servant … came over to me last week with £2 for the service of the Church. I proposed that, instead of giving it away at present, I would, with her leave, put it in the bank, when she told me that I might do so if I chose, but, she added, ‘I am laying by money at present in the savings bank for that very purpose.’ Yesterday, a Highland woman, a namesake of our own, from the Braes of Lochaber, a member of my Church, and a servant in town, came with eight shillings for the service of the Church also, though I learned by cross-examination that she had her father in the Highlands to support. … I have no doubt, from the way that public feeling is rising and running, that our opponents will be astonished by-and-by.”396
A collector in St. Luke’s, Edinburgh, now a minister of the Free Church, states: “One day in my collecting rounds a servant woman offered me a pound note for the Sustentation Fund. I was rather unwilling to receive it, thinking it too much for one in her station. I therefore told her as much, but she pressed it upon me, saying, ‘Take it. I believe it is for Christ and His cause.’ Trifling as this incident may appear, it struck me forcibly.”
“A lady, looking at her district, said, ‘I fear I will rather need to give than get.’ When her visits terminated, she returned, saying, ‘I have not been in a house where I have not got at least a halfpenny a-week, and the persons who gave this mite would have been grieved if I had passed them over.'”397
The value of such gifts lay in the spirit of self-denial which they evinced. The money thus given to the cause of Christ had not only been hardly earned, but the gift implied the privation, in many cases, of what could ill be spared.
It must not, however, be thought that there was no self-denial among the rich. In ordinary circumstances there is not much of this. Rich men, for the most part, cast their gifts into God’s treasury, and continue to surround themselves, as before, with the enjoyments of life, sitting as easily as ever in the midst of their comforts. But at the time of the Disruption there was a spirit of self-denial which went far beyond such limits.
A month before the event, it is stated in the “Eighth Monthly Communication,” edited by Dr. Chalmers: “We know that in many instances measures of retrenchment in unnecessary expenditure are going forward, that nothing may be lacking in the House of the Lord.”
Even at the Convocation he had announced: “Let me only, without giving names, tell of four specimens which have cast up within these few days. First, a thriving manufacturer, who is to stake £150 a-year on the moment when we are severed from endowments; then a gentleman of monied fortune, who undertakes in that event to furnish the maintenance of three clergymen and their families; then a widow, who, from the proceeds of her dowry and her own little fortune, dedicates £200 to the cause; and lastly, a master tradesman, who will let down his establishment to that of a journeyman or common mechanic, rather than that the Church, if abandoned by the State, should not be upheld, at least at the present extent of her efficiency and her means.”398
When the Disruption actually took place, such anticipations were amply fulfilled. Mrs. Coutts, for example, who had recently succeeded to the liferent of a fortune of £30,000, found that her means, “though ampler than she had ever before possessed, seemed now more limited than ever, owing to her vastly more ample desires to extend her Christian benevolence.” Being under the necessity, for the sake of her health, of changing her residence, she continued almost to grudge herself the small additional expense, “when she thought of the hardships and sufferings uncomplainingly borne by a large number of the ministers of the Free Church.”399
In Edinburgh society at the time, one heard on all sides of families whose style of living had been changed. Things of the kind could not be concealed. There were houses in which a footman was no longer kept,400 some who resided in the country drove a single horse instead of two,401 in other cases the carriage was given up.402 One well-known member of St. George’s congregation sold her house in a fashionable street, and retired to a small residence in what was then the farthest boundary of the city to the west, exposing herself to the good-humoured banter of Lord Cockburn: “Miss _____, what is this I hear! Is it true that you have sold that fine house and gone to live somewhere about half-way to Glasgow'”
“Two ladies of my own acquaintance,” says Dr. Chalmers, “the descendants of a noble family, have quitted their commodious and elegant house in the country, and come to reside in Edinburgh for the purpose of being enabled to devote a larger sum to the support of the Free Church of Scotland. Another lady called on me to consult me in regard to an income of £200 a-year, and the amount which she ought to spend of it, and she offered to board herself with, and give her whole income to, the family of one of the ejected ministers.”403
These examples will show the spirit which prevailed. There came, indeed, to be a strange kind of ingenuity among all ranks, in devising expedients by which they might be enabled to increase their contributions, as if to show that where there is a will there is a way.
“We know of one instance of a merchant in the West of Scotland, who has set apart a portion of his capital with which to trade on behalf of the Free Church. All that that portion of his capital realises he intends to cast into the General Sustentation Fund.”404
Captain Shepherd, of Kirkville, Aberdeenshire, recommended that in all families in the Free Church, every child should be “entered as a member of the association as soon as it was entered on the baptismal register. That was the plan he had adopted, and he hoped his brethren in the eldership especially would adopt it also.”405
In the family of a baronet, well known in the religious world, the children took their own way of contributing, giving up the use of sugar, that the cost of it might be added to the Sustentation Fund.
Sometimes the matter took rather amusing forms. In the Island of Arran, there was a well-known lady, who, at the time of the Disruption, resided with her father and brother, both decided supporters of the Establishment. She was equally decided in favour of the Free Church, and having no money of her own, she resolved, as the only thing she could do, to give up her snuff, and pay what it cost to the Sustentation Fund. Even in the best of people, however, human nature will assert itself, and the privation had, unfortunately, such an effect on her temper, that her father and brother besought her to resume her snuff, and they would most gladly pay the equivalent into the fund. After the death of her relatives, she had considerable means. “The worthy and pious lady, for such she was, is now where no such acts of self-denial are required!”406
“A poor man gave sixpence to the collector of his district, who said to him, ‘This is too much, as I am going to come back.’ The man thought for a moment, and his face brightened. ‘I have it,’ said he; so, taking back the sixpence, he gave twopence, saying, ‘You shall get this every week.’ ‘But is not this still too much” said the conscientious collector. ‘No,’ said the Christian contributor; ‘I have been giving twopence a-week to the barber for shaving me, and now I’ll shave myself.'”407
Stories of this kind may seem trivial, but none can fail to recognise the spirit of self-sacrificing earnestness which prompted such gifts.
“A young woman, who maintains herself by sewing in families, gave £1, and said that as long as she could thread a needle she would contribute this sum.”408
In a parish near the southern borders of Scotland, there was a poor widow, who had two children to support, and to do this mainly by her own industry, as only the merest pittance was allowed her by the heritors. The third week after the collections began she called on the collector, who had previously passed her door, and said, “Why did you not come to me'” “I thought you so poor, we had more need to collect for than to take from you.” “It is the first time, though, that my Master ever made such a demand on me, and He must not be gainsaid, nor me denied the pleasure of doing any little I can for Him. There are my three weeks’ contributions – we’ll trust Him for the time coming.”
It was while this spirit prevailed among all classes of adherents that the Sustentation Fund was commenced, and it was left for the collectors to sustain and foster it while gathering in the fruits. They must be prepared, however, as Dr. Chalmers warned them, to encounter difficulties. Referring to his own particular parish at Morningside, Edinburgh – “We began operations,” he says, “amidst a perfect storm of opposition from the higher ranks. … I was not previously aware – indeed I had no idea at all – that we should have had to encounter such a storm, but the collectors persevered, and we are now receiving at the rate of £6, 14s. a-week.”
If opposition came in the form of scornful reproach, the collectors were urged to bear in mind that the fund was no mere provision for the ejected ministers, but a great Church extension movement, for the benefit of the community at large. “One could plead and hold up his face unabashed for such a design in any company, and before any assemblage. It may be stigmatised by our enemies as a beggarly expedition for a beggarly purpose. It will be no such thing. It will be a high errand of religious philanthropy, an enlarged and liberal scheme of Church extension, carried forward by periodical, generous, and heart-stirring appeals in behalf of a great object of Christian patriotism.”409
All this, however, did not prevent such reproaches overtaking the collectors in due time; and though few could reply to them in language like that of Dr. Chalmers, yet the common people, in their own homely way, could sometimes deal with the adversaries effectively enough. By way of contrast, a single example may be given. “A godly, aged man, who was a catechist in a neighbouring parish, being jeered by a worldly rich sheep-farmer, a Moderate, saying, ‘You of the Free Church are a set of beggars,’ referring to our having few rich folk among us, and also to our collections. The honest man replied, ‘Well, be it so; we read that at death the beggar went to heaven, but the rich man to hell.’ The sheep-farmer said no more.”410
Meanwhile, amidst difficulties on the one hand, and encouragements on the other, the scheme was carried forward; but it is no part of our design to trace here the history of its progress. As time went on, modifications were suggested, and to some extent adopted; yet to this day the Sustentation Fund preserves its original character, and moves along the lines which were at first laid down. Without going into details, the general results may be briefly stated:
During the first ten years, the average annual income was £85,121
During the second ten years, the average annual income was £108,312
During the first ten years, the average annual income was £128,299
For the three years since completed, the average is £160,745
The supplements given by congregations have gone on increasing at a similar ratio.
It should be added that there is a surplus Sustentation Fund, out of which a very considerable proportion of the ministers have had their allowances largely augmented.
The number of ordained ministers, which at the Disruption was 470, is now upwards of 1000.
Such figures may give some idea of the progress of the fund, and of what it has done for that Church-extension movement of which Dr. Chalmers was the recognised leader and head. Its real value, however, is not to be measured by statistical tables.
It is the Sustentation Fund which has enabled the Church to supply religious ordinances in many a Highland and Lowland parish where the poverty of the people would have made it difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a Gospel ministry.
It is the Sustentation Fund which has enabled the Church to plant amidst the wynds and closes of our large cities so many of those ministerial charges which have been crowned with signal success in carrying the message of mercy to the most degraded portions of the population.
Results such as these might well be enough to recommend the system. But there are other advantages which should not be overlooked. It has consolidated the Church, drawing closer the bonds of brotherhood, making each minister feel that, however remote or obscure the locality in which he labours, he is not only the minister of his own congregation, but a minister of the whole Free Church which he represents, and in which all his brethren are identified with him, sustaining and strengthening his hands.
And added to this, there were indirect benefits, of no small importance, among the people. The Sustentation Fund has drawn into closer fellowship the different ranks of society, and fostered Christian intercourse among the members of the same congregation. “More than once,” in St. David’s, Glasgow, for example, “the remark has been made to collectors as they went their rounds, ‘Is it not strange that money, which is so often the source of division among friends, should prove among us a bond of love and union’’”411 This had been fully anticipated. “You will be delighted,” said Dr. Chalmers, “with the discoveries of kindly feeling you will meet with in the most wretched districts. … I have always felt that if the people were rightly addressed, there would be a response from them of which we have no imagination. … The thing that delights me in the working of this system is, that it brings the various classes of the community into more near converse and companionship with each other, and with those above them, and calls forth the same sympathies, the same neighbour-like feelings, the same play of kind and generous affections.”412
In view of all this, the Free Church has surely good reason to give thanks for the institution of this great central Sustentation Fund; and still more for the fact that, after the lapse of thirty years, it not only holds its ground, but gives increasing indications of stability and success.
Dr. Chalmers’s Statement at Tanfield
Privations of Outed Teachers
Tribute of Admiration paid to them
Mr. Macdonald’s Laborious Tour
His visit to London
Statement in the Assembly, 1844
The Moderator’s Thanks to Mr. Macdonald
The Church in earnest for Education
One thing done by the Free Church at the time of the Disruption must now be admitted to have conferred signal benefits on the people of Scotland – the setting up of her elementary schools. In this, however, as in various other parts of her work, her course was decided by the conduct of others rather than by any preconceived purpose of her own. The circumstances in which she was placed compelled her to do what she did.
The way, indeed, had been well prepared. The men of the Disruption were strongly attached to the cause of scriptural education. All along, the Scottish Church has been the great promoter and guardian of the education of the people. Under Knox and Melville she fought against the selfishness of the Court on behalf of the parochial schools. The battle was long and hard; and when the real history of Scottish education comes to be written, it will be found that in many districts Acts of Parliament were of little weight with the heritors, and it was only in the face of their opposition or neglect that the establishment of schools was carried out by the parochial clergy. In more recent times, great efforts had been made to increase the means of instruction, Dr. Welsh, in Edinburgh, and Mr. Stow, in Glasgow, being especially conspicuous for the part which they took in setting up the Normal schools. In a similar way, many of the outgoing ministers had, at great trouble and expense, engaged in the work of education, attaching to the Establishment the schools which they had erected; and what is said of Mr. Andrew Gray, of Perth, applies to many of his brethren: “Of all the losses he had to sustain, what he felt perhaps most keenly was the loss of his schools. They might well be called his schools” – their erection being due to his untiring energy and zeal, aided by a noble coadjutor, “his warm friend, Mr. Stewart Imrie, one of the most generous and large-hearted supporters of every good cause that Perth ever numbered among her citizens.” These schools had to be let go out of his hands in 1843.413
Even if nothing had occurred to decide the course of the Church, there were strong reasons why such zealous educationists should have continued their efforts after the Disruption as they had done before. The importance of religious education – the training of the young for Christ – was still as great. It was still as essential a part of Home-Mission work, to be fostered and cherished alongside the preaching of the Gospel.
Added to this, there was a special inducement which might well have weighed with every patriotic Scotsman – the manifest deficiency in the amount of education then existing in the country. The parish schools had been stereotyped for generations, while the population had increased twice or threefold. In 1834 it was found, as the result of careful inquiry, that Scotland, as compared with other countries, stood low in the scale of school attendance. At the time when the Free Church Education Scheme was set up there were good grounds for believing that more than 200,000 Scottish children, who ought to have been at school, were growing up without the reality, and most of them without the semblance of education.
All this, however, would probably have failed to move the Church. Her hands, it might well have seemed, were already only too full of work that was indispensable – building churches, planting congregations, and sustaining ministers and missionaries. Whatever individual ministers might have thought, the Church as a whole would probably have been inclined to leave the question as to education in abeyance for the time.
But the conduct of the Establishment and its friends decided the matter. There was no alternative.
The first hint of the new movement came from Dr. Chalmers at Tanfield, two days after the Disruption; and his statement deserves attention, as explaining how the education scheme of the Free Church took its rise. “I am aware, and you may have heard of some instances in which, not parish teachers [these required more time], but private teachers, most efficient teachers besides, have been dismissed from their employment, and turned adrift with their families on the wide world, for no other reason than that they approve of our principles. Such cases, I think, fairly come within our cognisance, and it is our duty to provide for them. We can get teaching for schoolmasters.”414
This was followed, three days afterwards, by the statement of Dr. Welsh. “Schools to a certain extent must be opened to afford a suitable sphere of occupation for parochial, and still more for private teachers of schools, who are threatened with deprivation of their present office on account of their opinions upon the Church question. Such individuals should be invited instantly to give in their names to the Church, and provision should at once be made for their employment. Instances of tyranny, in some cases unmanly, and in all unworthy, threats of expulsion from their situations, of withdrawing small endowments, of taking away scholars supported by donations, have been brought under the notice of the Committee. They are the more deserving of attention on this account, that we have not only the case of cruelly injured teachers, but still more, perhaps, of the children who are to be put into different hands.”415
It may be right to give some examples, showing how well founded such statements were. At Fairlie, near Largs, it is said: “The schoolhouse, which was claimed and taken possession of by Lord Glasgow on the feasible ground of the want of a lease, was built at the entire expense of Mr. Tennent, of Wellpark, and the late Mr. Parker [both members of the Free Church], at a cost of little less than £200, with the exception of some unwrought wood from the Kelburn estate.” Mr. Pinkerton, the teacher, had joined the Free Church, and was at once warned to quit his schoolhouse and dwelling, “by Saturday first” – i.e., in five days. But he had a written agreement as teacher, requiring six months’ warning before his dismissal, and as he paid a nominal rent for his dwelling-house, his lordship found that this order could not be carried into execution. Accordingly, he gave his consent – with what grace the reader may judge – to the school continuing “under the charge of Mr. Pinkerton, the present teacher, for the next six months, and subject as hitherto to the direction of Mr. Tennant.” “I did so,” he says, “as a matter of necessity, after seeing the agreement with Mr. Pinkerton, which entitles him to six months’ notice of an intention of removing him, and requires him to give three months’ notice of a wish to retire. If no such agreement had existed, I should have proceeded immediately to appoint another schoolmaster.”416
The Duke of Sutherland was equally decided. “My parish,” said Mr. Carment, of Rosskeen, “is a very extensive one, and I got erected in it two schools, one of which was put up chiefly at my own expense. Last year  a summons of removal was served by the Duke of Sutherland to the schoolmaster, and another schoolmaster put into the school, erected principally by my money.”417
In this way the lay friends of the Establishment signalised their zeal; but the ministers were not less energetic. Every teacher adhering to the Free Church who could by any means be reached was relentlessly assailed. In the parish of Campbeltown, for example, the educational staff was composed of nineteen male and female teachers, of public and private schools. “The process of ejection on the part of the Establishment of all the teachers who were under their control in any respect, and of some who were presumed to be under their jurisdiction, has been unsparingly executed. Nevertheless, this ruthless crusade against the faithful teachers has certainly not increased, either morally or physically, its shattered ranks.”418
And as at Campbeltown, so elsewhere in Scotland, no mercy was shown. Seventy-seven of those who held parish schools, sixty Assembly-school teachers, and seventy-five belonging to the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, were expelled for no other reason than holding Free Church principles. Among others, the staff of the two Normal Schools in Edinburgh and Glasgow were ejected – the rectors, teachers, students, and pupils going over en masse. “When the General Assembly met at Glasgow it was reported that 196 teachers of private schools had been cast out. In various parts of the country, indignation meetings, as they were called, were held, to protest against this treatment of men whom all classes of the community regarded with respect. But the ministers of the Establishment were remorseless, and the work of expulsion went bravely forward till nearly 400 of the best teachers in Scotland were sacrificed. And this was done by those who all the time were crying aloud in the ears of the country, that there was no difference between the two Churches!
Teachers thus cast out could not be treated with neglect by the Church to which they adhered. The Free Church was compelled, by the Establishment itself, to find employment for these men, and so to set up that Educational Scheme, the power of which was soon to be felt in the remotest corners of the land.
Assuredly it was in no half-hearted way that the cause was prosecuted. Mr. Lewis, of Leith, five months after the Disruption, gave in a report to the Glasgow Assembly, in which he paid a high tribute to those who had made the sacrifice. “We cannot close our report without rendering our humble passing tribute of admiration to the men who have so nobly witnessed for the truth, in the certain prospect of being thrown on the wide world for a provision for themselves and families. We speak not to depreciate the testimony borne by our fathers and brethren of this Assembly, or that which has so recently given new occasion for thanksgiving and many prayers – the testimony from the banks of the Ganges; but, faithful as these have been, we can discover an element that gives even a purer character to that lifted up by the teachers of Scotland, in their comparatively more obscure and humble walk of life. There was no visible necessity laid upon them as upon us to take up a self-denied testimony. They were not publicly committed. Their refusal of the testimony would not have been dishonour and apostasy. They had few or none of those advantages of mutual conference by which one man strengthens the heart of another, and which we so largely enjoyed. It was a question resolved between God and their own consciences, decided by each man apart in the communings of his heart with the Word of truth, and in prospect of his final accountability to the God that gave it. Theirs has been a testimony proceeding from faith unfeigned, and from a pure heart fervently.”419
And what then – if these were the feelings of the Church – what was to be done’ At this point a youthful minister stepped forward to take up the cause, in a way which even yet, as we look back on it, may well be regarded with astonishment. Introduced by the convener, Mr. Macdonald, of Blairgowrie (now Dr. Macdonald, of North Leith), ascended the platform and laid his proposals before a crowded evening meeting of the Assembly. His idea was to go forth immediately and raise £50,000 for building 500 schools. It should be remembered that men at the time were laboriously striving to raise funds for church building, and the sustentation of the ministry. Every nerve, as it seemed, had already been strained to the uttermost, and it is not surprising that when men heard Mr. Macdonald’s announcement, they, in the first instance, listened with wonder. But he had his plan ready, and with the utmost earnestness, it was laid before the House. He would himself go forth over all Scotland, and hoped to find subscribers enough to fill up the following scale of contributions:
“Scheme for raising £50,000 to aid in the erection of 500 schools for the Free Church of Scotland. Each school to be aided to the extent of £100.
Plan of Contribution.
500 persons giving 1s. to each of 500 schools yields £12,500
being £25 individual contributions.
1000 persons giving 6d. to each of 500 schools yields £12,500
being £12, 10s. individual contributions.
2000 persons giving 3d. to each of 500 schools yields £12,500
being £6, 5s. individual contributions.
6000 persons giving 1d. to each of 500 schools yields £12,500
being £2, 1s. 8d. individual contributions.
9500 persons giving at the above rates yields £50,000″
Such were the details, and as he went on to advocate the scheme with all the ardour of youthful enthusiasm, the Assembly was fairly carried away. The approval of the plan was moved by Mr. Thomson, of Banchory, seconded by Dr. M’Farlan, of Greenock, agreed to by acclamation, recommended to the people of the Free Church, and Mr. Macdonald commissioned to go forth on his chosen work. Three days afterwards, Dr. Welsh wrote in the following terms: “Edinburgh, 23rd October, 1843. – My dear Sir, – The more I reflect upon your plan, the more admirable it appears; and now that you have got the deliverance of the General Assembly in its favour, it requires only diligence and perseverance in the working to ensure success. It could not be in better hands than yours, and I sincerely hope that the members of our Church and the friends of education generally to whom you may apply, will do everything to facilitate your labours. – I am, with much esteem, my dear Sir, yours very sincerely, David Welsh.”
In this way the fund was commenced, but the reader will be best pleased to have the history of the movement as given in notes contributed by the members of Dr. Macdonald’s family and other friends.
“Immediately after the close of that Assembly, Mr. Macdonald made arrangements for proceeding, without delay, to carry out his scheme. In the earliest notices received, and before the full amount subscribed in many of the places visited by him could be ascertained, we find in the east, for example, that Edinburgh subscribed £7000; Leith £1125; Musselburgh, £180; Newhaven, £300; Ormiston, £200; Prestonpans, £283; Cockpen, £260; Dirleton, £300; Haddington, £530; Gifford, £150; Prestonkirk, £371; while, farther south, such places as Dunse, Kelso, Jedburgh, and Hawick were visited, and subscribed liberally. Proceeding northward, we find St. Andrews subscribing £600; Cupar-Fife, £400; Perth, £1400; Dundee, £2700; Arbroath, £1100; Montrose, £900; and following Mr. Macdonald in his laborious journey, we find him writing from Aberdeen: ‘My first meeting in Aberdeen is to be on Monday evening, at seven o’clock. On Wednesday I proceed to Peterhead, to hold a meeting there. I come back to hold a second meeting in Aberdeen on Friday, and on Saturday 1 journey northward to Inverness, where, God willing, I intend preaching on the Sabbath. Ask strength for body and soul. Ask for the Spirit’s presence and power in every meeting, and ask for the full completion of the present work; and to all your asking join thanksgiving for the innumerable mercies we are daily receiving. I am often astonished at the kind and Christian hospitality I have uniformly received. I have never yet, I think, been one night in an inn.’ The above extract from a letter, written at a time when very few railways were available even in the centre of Scotland, and none at all in the North, may serve to indicate the arduous nature of Mr. Macdonald’s labour in prosecuting his great scheme, and also to reveal the secret of his powers of endurance and of his wonderful success. In every place that he visited he first preached, and then expounded the plan by which he expected to raise so much money for schools; and, where the district admitted of it, he sometimes preached and explained his scheme at meetings held each day, for five or six days in succession! Proceeding to the far North, we find Inverness subscribing £1000; Tain, £500; Wick, £775; Thurso, £503; and, in like proportion, such places as Elgin, Banff, and Peterhead. In the West, Glasgow subscribed with its usual munificence, although the writer is unable to state the amount. Paisley, about £1300; Port-Glasgow, £400; Dumbarton and neighbourhood, £600; Rothesay, £1000; Ayr, £800. Kilmarnock, Maybole, Irvine, Dunoon, and such places, also subscribing with corresponding liberality.”
“The correspondent quoted at the beginning of these notes, relative to this scheme, writes: ‘Little did we dream, when first hearing from Mr. Macdonald from Glasgow detached accounts of a scheme for providing schools, that it would ultimately grow to such formidable dimensions, and involve so much personal labour and lengthened absence from his family and congregation. But so it was; nor do we grudge it, although now we feel as if, in after-life, it had told somewhat heavily on his constitution. It was a good work, and God was graciously pleased to mark His approval of it, for in no other way can we account for the almost marvellous success that attended his continued exertions. Often did we smile when, on reading his letters, such passages would occur – ‘I have had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. _____. He is a delightful man. By the by, he has subscribed to my school scheme.’ Indeed, we began to find that that was almost an infallible test of the real worth of his many friends!
“He used to tell us of an amusing incident connected with his visit to Manchester. The meeting had been all arranged, and the night fixed, but, unfortunately, it turned out wet and stormy, so that it was feared there would be but a thin gathering. However, the hour arrived, and the audience had taken their seats, when, alas! the gas entirely failed, and all seemed doomed to disappointment. What was to be done? Light must be had; so, making the best of what they could, candles were brought in. Two were placed on each side of the speaker, and from the midst of such illumination he proceeded to address the meeting. Dark and discouraging as was the prospect, you may imagine his delight when, at the close of the meeting, £500 was got. At Liverpool he had a very large and enthusiastic meeting, and at the close of it £1000 was subscribed.
“Thinking that he might be able to advance his scheme by a visit to London, he proceeded thither. A few days after his arrival he found that a large and influential deputation had come from Scotland for the purpose of interesting the people in the Free Church struggle, and, if possible, securing pecuniary help. They were therefore by no means greatly pleased that he should come as an interloper with his scheme while they were advocating theirs, both by holding public meetings and making private appeals. In deference to them, therefore, he did nothing, and thus nearly a fortnight of his valuable time was lost, and he felt quite disheartened. At length, however, he was informed that the deputation were to hold a public meeting in Regent Square Church, and that he being in London, they would give him, as a personal favour, the last half-hour in which he might plead his own scheme. Limited as such an arrangement was, he was thankful to get even this brief opportunity, and waited with no small impatience until the several speakers should be done; but alas! this consummation seemed a far way off. The first gentleman spoke for about an hour, the second nearly as long, and knowing that a London audience rarely stayed longer that ten o’clock, he sighed as a third speaker rose, and he not the last of their number.
“The platform on which they were seated had been raised very considerably, so that those in the gallery might hear better, and a kind of ladder-stair at the back gave access to it. Mr. MacDonald, who was sitting behind, quietly rose, slipped down the steps, and gained the vestry. There he earnestly prayed that God might so influence the minds of the speakers that they might be short, and that there might yet be time for his unfolding his scheme. After thus committing it to the Lord, he quite unobservedly resumed his seat, and you may imagine his feelings when the speaker unexpectedly closed, and, turning round to him, said, ‘Now, I have just been short for your sake!’ Oh! the goodness of the Lord; how wonderfully He can and does answer prayer! The last speaker was also brief, and Mr. Macdonald was just about to begin, when the assembly simultaneously arose, and began to leave their seats.
“This was an unforeseen trial; but Mr. Patrick Shaw Stewart, M.P. for Renfrewshire, who was in the chair, kindly came to the rescue. Rising up, he said: ‘I wish very much that you would wait a little longer. There is a young friend here from Scotland with some very ingenious plan for getting schools, and I should like much to hear him. Would you do me the favour of remaining a little while.’ Thus appealed to, the audience resumed their seats; and Mr. Macdonald, lifting up his heart to God for help, began his tale, putting forth all his powers to make the best of his short but golden opportunity. Facts, anecdotes, appeals were all used to gain the desired end, and at the close, when subscription papers were handed round, the sum amounted to between £800 and £1000. It was subsequently increased to £1400. At first the deputation were not altogether pleased that the lion’s share had fallen to the schools, but in the end they heartily rejoiced in the result.”
“No wonder though, as remarked by the writer of the passage just quoted, the labour involved in Mr. Macdonald’s prosecution of his scheme had in after-life told somewhat heavily on his constitution. This journey to England, and the long and arduous journeys in Scotland, accomplished by him between October, 1843, and May, 1844, were fitted to try very severely the constitution of even so young a man, as he was at this time, and of a much stronger man than he ever was. Apropos of his youth, an amusing exhibition of incredulity as to his identity, owing to his youthful appearance, occurred on one of his journeys in the far North. Returning from Wick, he and other two male passengers were inside the stagecoach, when one of the two, addressing Mr. Macdonald, remarked: ‘I understand that this Mr. Macdonald, who is raising so much money for building schools, was in Wick last night. I wonder if he had a good meeting.’ ‘Oh, yes,’ was the reply, ‘it was a very good meeting, and upwards of £700 was subscribed.’ ‘That,’ said the passenger who had not yet spoken, ‘that is Mr. Macdonald whom you are now speaking to.’ But the inquirer about the preceding night’s meeting was not to be so imposed upon; and scrutinisingly surveying Mr. Macdonald from head to foot, he exclaimed, with a leer of incredulity, ‘Na, na; his faither might be the man, but that’s no him.’
“As the month of May approached, Mr. Macdonald had made such progress that he felt certain of the complete attainment of his object before the meeting of the General Assembly. Early in May, 1844, he wrote from Hamilton as follows: – ‘The various reports of what has been done between last May and this May will be truly wonderful. Never, I suppose, in the history of the Church was so much done in one year – so many churches built, so many ministers sustained, such large missionary operations carried on, and such a large sum subscribed for schools. The success, indeed, is so wonderful that scarcely any one, unless wilfully blind, can fail to see the hand of God in it all.’
“At the Assembly which met in Edinburgh in 1844, and on the evening of the 28th of May, a truly noble and astonishing result was announced by Mr. Macdonald. There were, it appeared, many important places which he had not been able, during the few months since last October, to visit, and some reports having not yet come in, he could not state exactly what had been subscribed; but he could certainly state that it was upwards of £52,000! And excepting £3000 subscribed in England, and mainly by Scotch Presbyterians, the whole amount had been subscribed by those very people who had already contributed with such unbounded liberality for the building of churches and sustaining a Gospel ministry both at home and abroad. …
“Dr. Candlish said ‘that he could not but express the feeling which he entertained towards his friend, Mr. Macdonald, in reference to the matter which had that evening been before them. He has opened the springs of faith in the Divine promises among a large class of our people, and it were inexcusable in us to omit acknowledging the good hand of God in the success with which he had begun, carried on, and completed in faith this good work.’ As convener of another committee, Dr. Candlish further said: ‘We are deeply indebted to the labours of Mr. Macdonald, not only in reference to the scheme he has been the instrument of promoting, but for the great aid he has given us in preaching the Gospel, and administering ordinances in various parts of the country. In the present scarcity of ministerial labourers, and in the demand which exists for the preaching of the Gospel wherever he has arrived, he has not only made his appeal to the pockets of the people, but has filled their souls with the bread of life.’ ‘I have thought it was a providential thing that Mr. Macdonald was led to devise such a scheme as that which has occupied his attention, seeing it has been the cause of so much spiritual good throughout those parts of Scotland that he has visited.’ …
“The Moderator, Dr. Henry Grey, then returned thanks to Mr. Macdonald. ‘The scheme,’ said Dr. Grey, ‘was indeed an admirable one – simple in its means, sublime in its object, and I congratulate you on your success. In the other Christian enterprises of our Church many heads have combined their counsels, many hands have co-operated, many agents have been employed, and the Church in all its congregations has exerted its efforts. Your scheme originated with yourself; you have been the contriver, the counseller, the agent, the accomplisher of it. No doubt you have received hearty sympathy and much valuable help; but you have won these for yourself, and to you, therefore, our thanks are due. And we have the purer pleasure in giving them that we know you will unite with us in rendering thanks supremely to Him from whom all good flows; who taught you to conceive, and enabled you to perform, the honourable service you have accomplished.’ The Moderator concluded by requesting Mr. Macdonald to convey to his flock the thanks of the Assembly for the patience and generosity they had shown by so cheerfully acquiescing in his long and necessary absence. …
“One of the most gratifying results of Mr. Macdonald’s recent visit to so many parts of Scotland was the impressively interesting evidence thereby afforded that the people of Scotland not only sympathised with, and were resolved to stand by and support, ministers and teachers adhering to Free Church principles, and ejected from their livings for conscience’ sake, but also desired with heartfelt anxiety the preaching of the Gospel to themselves and a Christian education for their young. The response to Mr. Macdonald’s appeals, it will be observed, was alike hearty and liberal, whether in the north, the south, the east, or the west. He was never allowed to lodge a single night in an inn, and at a very early stage of his labours he observed with peculiar satisfaction that at the first meeting in every place yet visited by him the amount subscribed had never been less than £100; and this interesting fact he did not fail to refer to as a stimulus in places subsequently visited, the final result being, that not even in Shetland was less than £100 subscribed at the first meeting.”420
This remarkable movement, welcomed as it thus was, and crowned with such success, sufficiently proved that the Church was in earnest in the work of education; but not less is this seen when we look to the character of the men into whose hands the management of the scheme was entrusted. At first Mr. Lewis, of Leith (afterwards Dr. Lewis, of Rome) held the convenership. Then, for a short time, it was entrusted to Dr. Cunningham, and subsequently, in 1846, it was put into the hands of Dr. Candlish, under whom the work finally took shape. For many years the writer sat with him in this committee and its sub-committees. There is no need that he should say anything as to the powerful influence of the Convener, and the rare administrative talent which was brought to bear in furtherance of the work; but he may be allowed to give his testimony to the amount of labour and anxious thought expended on it by Dr. Candlish to an extent far beyond anything that the Church in general was aware of.
Under such guidance it was not long till the educational movement began to be rapidly developed, giving proof – if that had been needful – of how great the demand for additional means of instruction was in the country. In May, 1845, 280 schools were already in operation, but within two years there were 513 teachers on the scheme, and there was also a class of schools which, though not supported by the Committee, belonged really to the Free Church, bringing the whole number up to 650. Of these, 595 sent in returns in 1847, showing an attendance of more than 44,000, and the estimate was that, including the whole, the number of scholars would compare favourably with the attendance at all the parochial schools of Scotland. “The committee dwell on this result not in a spirit of boasting or exultation, but rather for the purpose of impressing on the Free Church a sense of her deep responsibility to God and the rising generation. She has a price given into her hands to buy wisdom. She has a precious opportunity in God’s providence, and the Lord is making it manifest that the people of the land are not slow to answer any efforts that she may make. The committee press this consideration – viz., that already the number of children in attendance at the Free Church of Scotland’s schools may be regarded as equal in number to the attendance on the whole parochial schools of Scotland altogether.”421
In regard to the teachers to whom these schools were at first entrusted, it must be said that, as a class, they were men of no common eminence in their profession. Making full allowance for individual cases, and speaking only of the general result, there were good grounds for the statement made by Dr. Candlish in 1847. “In point of fact, when this Church was separated from the State at the Disruption, she obtained the services, in her educational department, of the very elite, the very flower, of all the educational bodies in all broad Scotland. She got the flower of the parochial teachers, she got the flower of the Assembly teachers, and by an act of infatuation during the past year, the Establishment has again given her the flower of that valuable body of men – the teachers of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.”
In proof of this he dwelt on the fact that they were men who had acted on their own views of Christian principle. “And if you take one with another, the men of any body, you will find that the men of Christian principle are, generally speaking, the men of intellectual power; where you have men of a firm principle, you will invariably find that these are not the men of the least intellectual energy. We have got the flower of our Scottish teachers, and already the steps taken by this Church, allow me to say, have had the effect of putting a spirit of enthusiasm, a spirit of heartiness, into your teachers that, as you will presently see, has stimulated them to high attainments, and encouraged them to persevere in your service in the face of all difficulties.”422
It is not our purpose in these pages to trace the history of the scheme. One great difficulty which soon presented itself, arose out of the agitation for a national system of education; and what made the difficulty greater was the avowed preference which the Church and Dr. Candlish soon showed in favour of the movement. A feeling of uncertainty thus began to arise as to when our own scheme might be superseded, and in this way the hands of the committee were greatly weakened in appealing to the people. Yet, in the face of every difficulty, the scheme was carried steadily forward, with what results may be seen from the following authoritative statement, drawn up and laid before Members of Parliament in 1869. At the close of twenty-five years’ work, this is what could be said:
“There are connected with and supported by the Free Church 598 schools (including two normal schools), with 633 teachers and 64,115 scholars. The results of the examination of schools receiving grants from the Privy Council by Her Majesty’s inspectors, according to the revised code, show that the Free Church schools stand at the top of the elementary schools both in Scotland and England.
“The school buildings belonging to the Free Church have been erected at a cost of £220,000. Of this sum the Committee of Privy Council contributed £35,000, and the remainder, £185,000, has been raised by subscriptions and grants from the Free Church School Building Fund. The most of the buildings have been kept in good repair, at considerable expense to the congregations with which they are connected, and their present estimated value is about £180,000.
“The annual payments made to teachers from the education fund of the Free Church, amount to £10,000; and, in addition, congregations spend in supplementing the salaries of teachers and in charges connected with the maintenance of the schools, £6000 a-year.
“The total sum expended by the Free Church since the Disruption for educational purposes, is not less than £600,000.”
The statement is brief, but it would be difficult to say what amount of skill, and labour, and prayer, and self-denying zeal were required to achieve such results; and it would be not less difficult to measure the benefits conferred on hundreds of thousands of the youth of the land who have passed through these schools, and are now rising up and taking their part in the work and responsibilities of life.
Note. – The attention of the reader is directed to the fact, that the Free Church schools, as tested by Government examination, stood at the head of the elementary schools of the country. There was nothing on which the Church was from the first more determined than to have the education which she offered to the people of the very highest quality.
One proof of this among many which might be given, is a fact of some interest in the existing circumstances of Scotland at the present moment.
It is well known that an unfriendly feeling towards Normal schools has arisen in some quarters, as if they were antagonistic to the universities, and were meant to come between the teachers and a higher style of culture. If this ever were so in any quarter, it certainly never was in the Normal schools connected with the Free Church. A remarkable statement on the subject, made by Dr. Candlish just thirty years ago, on giving in his first report to the Assembly, deserves to be noticed. He was showing that these schools are really institutions for elevating and enlarging the minds of the teachers. “I will just say on this point, that the Committee are far from desiring that your Normal schools for teachers should ever take the place of, or supersede attendance at, the ordinary colleges or universities of Scotland. On the contrary, your Committee are perfectly prepared to recommend, if the House will adopt the recommendation, that it should be a condition, that any one competing for your higher rates of salary should show that he has been at least one or more years in attendance at the literary classes of the university. But the Committee beg to observe that attendance at the classes of the university has never until now, under any system in Scotland, been a necessary qualification, and we all know that the teachers, under the system that prevailed in the parochial schools, have been selected, except in some favoured districts of the country, very much without regard to such qualifications. This I state, not by any means as if it were not a right qualification, or as if it were not one which the Free Church ought to insist upon, but rather to explain why we have not hitherto insisted on this qualification in the teachers of your schools.”
The view thus stated was, that the Normal schools ought to be a link of connection with our colleges, so as to confer on the teaching profession the benefits of a liberal university education. All along this result has to a considerable extent been attained, and at the present moment (1877) more than ever it is the aim of the Education Committee of the Free Church. The reader however, will not fail to observe how decidedly the church, thirty years ago, was looking in this direction, and in what strong terms her views were expressed by Dr. Candlish.
The New College
Memorable Appeal by Dr. Candlish
A Free Church College opened in Edinburgh
Mr. Macdonald’s Offer
He raises £10,000
His Bold Suggestion
Dr. Candlish’s Humorous Comment
New College erected
Its Gratifying Success
Two Sister Colleges established
There are many in the Free Church who must still remember the rooms in George Street, where the classes of the New College met during the first years of its history. Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Welsh had resigned those professorships which they held and adorned in the University of Edinburgh, their last session in connection with the Establishment having terminated a few weeks before the Disruption. Without hesitation it was at once resolved to open a Divinity Hall for the Free Church, and a Committee was empowered to appoint professors, to engage premises, and to have everything prepared for beginning at the usual time in November. There was, indeed, no time to be lost in bringing forward young men for the ministry. The fields were white to the harvest, the labourers were few, and on all sides the cry was rising, “Send us ministers.” Accordingly, at the Glasgow Assembly, the Committee were ready with their report. Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Welsh were to be joined by Dr. Duncan as Professor of Hebrew and Dr. Cunningham in the Chair of Church History, and the Free Church might well feel thankful, that in such men she had a staff of professors whose names were a tower of strength in support of the cause of God in the land.
Immediately before the close of the Assembly, Dr. Candlish made a memorable appeal for young men to devote themselves to the work of the ministry. “We are to expect no miracle, no baring of the Lord’s arm in any unusual manner – that is, without the use of means. Let us, then, see what are the sources of the supply of labourers on which we may depend. … The first and chief of these … is the piety of Christian parents and the early devotion of Christian youth to the cause of the Lord. On this point I think the parents in our congregations, and the young, need to be reminded of their obligations, and it were well if ministers more habitually pressed on the attention of their congregations the duty of parents to devote their children to the work of the ministry, even in their early infancy, and the duty of the pious among the youth of the land to devote themselves early to this sacred work. In this way we would have coming into our colleges, with a view to the ministry, the godly youth of the land, from all parts of the country. … We hail every new instance of a parent, stirred up by a sense of the loud call the Lord is addressing to him, to devote and consecrate a child to His service – every new instance of a young man turning away from the secular pursuits of earthly ambition, and consecrating himself to the ministry of the Word, in the service of a Church which has no higher prize to offer now than the prize of winning souls unto God.”423
Within a week from the time when these words were spoken, the New College was opened at Edinburgh, the inaugural address being delivered in the Brick Church, Castle Terrace, by Dr. Chalmers, in the presence of “a large number of students, and a numerous and highly respectable audience.” It was encouraging to see 103 young men of those formerly enrolled as students of divinity, rallying round the professors of the Free Church, and still more so, to find seventy-six entering as students of the first year. The number was large, but the fervour of Disruption feeling was strong among the youth of Scotland, and not among the youth alone. “We have had some very cheering instances,” Dr. Chalmers said, “I could name about twenty or thirty, of men abandoning secular employments and professions, giving up the prospect of a large and liberal competency in the walks of business, to devote themselves to the Christian ministry, and who are in actual attendance at the theological seminary, or are engaged some of them in learning Greek, and studying the very elements of a collegiate education in the University of Edinburgh, and that in the hope that … they may fulfil the object upon which their hearts are set – that is, to labour in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ during the remainder of their lives.”424
A commencement such as this was full of encouragement, but that first session had not run its course before the friends of the college felt that it was essential to have suitable collegiate buildings provided without delay. A movement with this object in view was set on foot, Mr. Earle Monteith, advocate, taking the lead. The first thing was to find a fitting site in some central and prominent position. It might be difficult to obtain, and costly, but the fact that so many of the leading congregations had been forced to place their churches out of sight, in back lanes and back greens, rendered it only the more needful to have the college set advantageously in public view.
In May, 1844, Mr. Monteith laid the subject before the Assembly, stating on high authority that from £20,000 to £25,000 would be required to “erect a college which would be a credit to the Church.” If to this were added the cost of such a site as was intended, the expense would be great, but there was one circumstance which had given him confidence in the result. He had met Mr. Macdonald, of Blairgowrie, fresh from that wonderful tour in which, with such ease and so much pleasure to all parties, he had in half-a-year raised the sum of £50,000, and Mr. Monteith said, “When I stated this to him [the cost], and told him that I thought the time was now come when we should set about the erection, before he would give his approbation to the plan, he made it a condition that we should accept of £10,000 from himself. Some would have been very apt to take this as a boast, and I confess that had he made the offer to me six months ago, I would have been very apt to smile at it, but when we see that within the last six months he has raised five times the sum, I think we may consider that in the course of twelve months his £10,000 will be as sure as if we had his bank-bill for it.”425
It need not be said how gladly this proposal was welcomed. Mr. Macdonald was cordially thanked for the £50,000 he had already raised, and with all the encouragement which the Assembly could give, he was sent forth anew in quest of the £10,000 for the college.
Availing ourselves again of the narrative formerly quoted, we find that in this new undertaking Mr. Macdonald “met with the same overflowing kindness to himself personally, and the same liberality in subscribing to the cause, as had everywhere been extended to him when collecting the £50,000 for the erection of schools. He was frequently pronounced to be the most notable beggar of the time, and the enthusiasm manifested in favour of his schemes was truly astonishing. He diligently availed himself, no doubt, of every argument fitted to reach the hearts and consciences of his auditors, whether they were based upon facts gathered as he went along, or upon anecdotes, or passages of Scripture. He sometimes told a very effective illustration of a favourite text – ‘There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.’ A lady resident in Edinburgh, and bearing a well-known and much-respected name, had undertaken to collect, in contributions of one shilling, a given amount for a very good purpose. There were, among others, two sisters, friends of hers, from each of whom she expected a shilling. Calling at their residence in the suburbs, she found only one of them at home. She, however, at once contributed a shilling for herself and also a shilling for her absent sister. The absent sister by-and-by met the lady who had been collecting the shillings, and informed her, to her utter amazement, that she decidedly objected to the contribution made by her sister on her behalf, and that the shilling must be returned. In vain did the lady remonstrate with her friend – the shilling must be paid back, and paid back there and then. It accordingly was, but with this remark, ‘Well, well, there it is, but, depend upon it, you will get no blessing with it.’ After some time, the two friends met again. Alluding to their last interview, the lady-collector said, ‘Now, honestly tell me, did you get a blessing with that shilling” Somewhat hesitatingly, the other replied, ‘Well, to tell the real truth, the very day I took back the shilling I lost a pound!‘
“In fulfilling his present task, Mr. Macdonald visited such localities as he had not been able to visit before. When in the North, he was urged to go to Shetland; writing from which, in July, 1844, he says: ‘The Lord has sent me here, and He has blessed my labours. I have got upwards of £100 in Lerwick, but, what is better, I think I have got souls. As we have no Free Church in Lerwick, I preached in the Secession Chapel, in the Independent Chapel, and last night in the Methodist Chapel.’ It happened at this very time that Mr. Bruce, better known as Dr. Bruce, of Free St. Andrew’s Church, Edinburgh, had arrived from Edinburgh, for the purpose of organising a Free Church congregation there; and while Mr. Macdonald preached in the Methodist Chapel the building was so crowded that Mr. Bruce and his sister, who were present, were obliged to sit on the pulpit stair. Mr. Macdonald visited Orkney at this time also, and there he received subscriptions for £340. Cromarty subscribed £150; and from Cromarty Mr. Macdonald wrote in August: ‘I had the rare pleasure of meeting two very distinguished men here – Mr. Stewart, of Cromarty, and Hugh Miller, of the Witness. We had breakfast together at the minister’s house, and I spent a most enjoyable morning with these remarkable men. They were both greatly interested in my work.’ Nairn, Forres, Fochabers were visited on this journey, and subscribed. Huntly gave £318 and Keith £348.
“Returning from the North, Mr. Macdonald visited Hawick, Selkirk, Galashiels, Melrose, Bowden, Peebles, all in one week, and in October he visited Dumfries and Thornhill. An interesting account of his visit to these two last-named places appears in a local newspaper, as follows: – ‘Rev. Mr. Macdonald. – This gifted and devoted minister, before returning to his own flock, made a descent upon Dumfries, not with the highest expectations as to the result. Spite of the Caledonian Hunt, however, and other attractions there, a large assembly collected to hear him on the evening of Monday last, and, ere they parted, subscribed the sum of £806, 17s. 8d. On the same day, and in the same place, Dr. John Hunter, of the Tron, and Mr. James Cochrane, of Cupar [both belonging to the Establishment], after very emphatic addresses, succeeded in inducing the ladies of Dumfries to contribute the sum of £8, 3s. 4d. for the advancement of female education in India. Next day Mr. Macdonald set off for Thornhill, and, after paying his respects to Janet Fraser, who was greatly delighted with his visit, preached at Virginhall in the evening, and explained his school-building scheme. The sum of £240 was raised without any difficulty. A shepherd, who had travelled all the way from Crawford Moor to hear him, subscribed his 500 pennies – more than a fourth part of the sum which the whole female aristocracy of Dumfries had contributed on the previous day for the cause of female education in India.’
“In the General Assembly of 1845, and on the 31st of May, Mr. Macdonald addressed the Assembly, and reported that he had fulfilled the three-months’ duty on behalf of the College Fund, devolved upon him by the Assembly of 1844. He also expressed how much he regretted that he had not been able to visit many places in which he knew that a visit would have been very acceptable. The £10,000 additional, however, had all been subscribed.”426
Thus successfully had Mr. Macdonald brought into the treasury the sum which he had promised to raise, and Mr. Monteith was ready no less successfully to do his part in laying it out to the best advantage. Already in the Assembly he had announced the purchase of a site at the head of the Mound, of which it was said, on the best authority, that “no better could have been found had we searched all Scotland.” The expense, indeed, had been proportionally great – the first outlay (subsequently modified) had amounted to just £10,000 for the site alone, so that after the effort that had been made, the whole cost of the building had still to be provided for.
Here, once more, Mr. Macdonald interposed to offer a suggestion, perhaps the boldest in its conception, and that which, in the hands of Dr. Welsh, became the happiest in its execution of all these movements. “In the summer of 1844, and just before he had completed the work assigned to him by the Assembly in May, of raising subscriptions for £10,000 in aid of the New College, a munificent contribution was placed at Mr. Macdonald’s disposal, which, under God, was the means of drawing forth, on the part of several individuals, ‘an exhibition of the power of Christian principle’ very seldom equalled. The honoured contributor, whose generous gift of £2000 was thus blessed, handed that amount to Mr. Macdonald, with power to him to apply it as he might believe to be most advisable for the benefit of the New College. …
“Now, the idea occurred to him that, as the less wealthy members of the Free Church had subscribed so heartily for the erection of schools, so the more wealthy members might be willing, if asked, to contribute of their abundance for the erection of a college. At the earliest opportunity he waited upon Dr. Welsh, the convener of the college committee, and informed him that he had received £2000 which could be applied for the building of the proposed New College; and then, for the first time, Mr. Macdonald suggested, and urged upon the convener, the propriety of trying to raise £20,000 in subscriptions of £1000 each, from twenty individuals, for this object. Dr. Welsh was not a little startled at this bold proposal of his young friend, but after discussing it, and looking at it on all sides, he agreed to give it a trial. Next morning, however, after sleeping over it, the revered and excellent doctor was much troubled with doubts as to the wisdom of acting on the suggestions of so ardent and youthful a counsellor. But while he was in this state of hesitation, Mr. Macdonald happened, fortunately, to call again. Returning to the subject with his usual enthusiasm, Dr. Welsh was prevailed upon finally to undertake the scheme. The result will be told by Dr. Welsh himself, in the following letter to Dr. Candlish, read at the Commission of Assembly on the 20th November, 1844:
“’59 Melville Street, 20th November, 1844.
“’My dear Sir, – As in the present state of my health, I am advised not to attend the meeting of Commission this day, I shall be obliged to you to give in a report respecting the proceedings for building the college. The facts are simply these: About two months ago Mr. Macdonald, of Blairgowrie, called upon me to inform me that he had got £2000 – or, perhaps, £3000 – for building a new college, and urged upon me the propriety of endeavouring to raise £20,000 from twenty individuals. As I had got £1000, in addition to the sum procured by Mr. Macdonald, I felt strongly inclined to undertake the duty, mainly from the desirableness of not distracting the people of Scotland in general with a new scheme, and partly also from the consideration that, as the middle and lower orders had raised £50,000 for the building of schools, £20,000 was not too much to expect from twenty of our wealthier adherents, who would thus perpetuate their names as exhibiting the power of Christian principle. Accordingly, I commenced operations, and in about a month £17,000 in all was the sum that was raised; and I have since that period got two additional names, making £19,000 in all. Had I not been taken ill in Glasgow when engaged in the work of raising subscriptions, I have no doubt whatever the sum of £20,000 would have been procured long ago, and it would have been more pleasant to me to have given a report that the whole was completed. But we must cheerfully submit to the ways of Divine Providence, knowing that they are always for the best. At present I do not mention the names of any of the contributors, as several of them objected to having their names published in the newspapers, and several of the donors are anonymous. While for the present, therefore, I abstain from giving any names, I think it proper to state that, while the motives of the individuals who have a hesitation as to giving publicity to their benevolence are of the most praiseworthy description, there are names on the list which, by their piety and station, would adorn any cause. I had almost forgot to state that I have the most perfect confidence in the sum being completed in a few days. – I am, &c, David Welsh.’
“Dr. Candlish, in some humourous remarks, stated ‘that the shares of this stock were at a premium, that only one share was in the market, for which the College Committee expected several competitors; and if the biddings for it were spirited it might be a matter of consideration whether or not a few more shares might not with propriety, and with great generosity on their part, be allocated. To our friends in the West we are greatly indebted, in coming forward with their wonted liberality on behalf of this scheme.’
“In the editorial column of the Witness newspaper of the day, the following notice appeared: – ‘Our readers will peruse with peculiar interest and satisfaction the letter of Dr. Welsh in regard to the New College. Such a splendid and munificent subscription list will, we have no doubt, equally cheer our friends and astonish our enemies; and should encourage us to onward and persevering progress in the great work in which the Free Church is engaged.’
“At the General Assembly, and on the 2nd of June, 1845, Dr. Cunningham read the report of the College Committee (the revered Dr. Welsh having gone to his reward), in which it was stated that Dr. Welsh had succeeded in raising the £20,000 referred to in his letter of November last. Mr. Monteith read a report to the effect that £21,000 had been raised in all – £2000 from one contributor, and £19,000 from nineteen others. Mr. Monteith also reported with reference to the plans for the new building. Mr. Hog, of Newliston, at the same time made an interesting statement relative to a bursary fund which he had been exerting himself in raising for the benefit of young men preparing for the Free Church. After some discussion relative to these several reports, on the motion of Dr. Buchanan, the Moderator returned thanks to Dr. Cunningham, Mr. Monteith, and Mr. Hog. In the motion submitted by Dr. Buchanan, the following passage occurred: – ‘In reference to that part of the report which relates to the erection of suitable collegiate buildings, the Assembly have heard with the highest satisfaction and thankfulness that the munificent sum of £20,000, in sums of £1000 each, excepting one case, in which the subscription amounted to £2000, has been subscribed towards carrying this object into effect; and they remit to the Committee, of whose past proceedings they cordially approve, to proceed with all convenient speed towards the accomplishment of this important undertaking.’
“Before this subject was passed from, Mr. Sheriff Monteith stated, that although the raising of the £20,000 for the college from twenty individuals had been attributed to Dr. Welsh, and, no doubt it was in a great degree rightly attributed, still, the idea of the scheme did not originate with him, but with a gentleman to whom the Church owed much. A few days after the Assembly of last year (probably the Commission in August), Dr. Welsh called upon him (Mr. M.), and stated that a scheme had been suggested to him whereby £20,000 could be obtained from twenty individuals for the College Fund, each paying £1000. He (Mr. M.) thought the proposal altogether visionary, but Dr. Welsh said that he had such confidence in Mr. Macdonald, of Blairgowrie, who was the person who suggested it – (hear, hear) – that he would try its success, and that success was, that within six months he had the sum required (hear, hear).”
How the enterprise thus auspiciously begun was subsequently carried out it is not for us here to telL The handsome buildings now seen at the head of the Mound were erected, after a design by Mr. Playfair, at an expense of £46,506. The New College has gathered round it endowments and funds which now amount to about £44,000. A library, containing 35,000 volumes of the most valuable literature, has been brought together. Upwards of 1300 students of divinity, intended for the ministry of the Free Church, have attended the Hall, and in addition to these, there have been 41 Scottish students of different denominations, 120 from Ireland, 14 from England, and 14 from Wales. The following also have attended from abroad – namely, from
United States 30
Cape of Good Hope 20
A few from other nationalities, bring up the whole number of foreign students to 145.
But this is not all. Not only has the New College in Edinburgh been attended by a measure of success so gratifying, the Church has further reason to be thankful for the establishment of two sister colleges, the first at Aberdeen and the second at Glasgow. Into the history of these important institutions we do not at present enter. They were built, and, to a large extent, endowed by the munificence of generous friends who felt the importance of having a Divinity Hall in each of these seats of learning. Thus, while many prayers have been going up to the Lord of the vineyard to send forth the needful labourers, the Church and her supporters have been enabled to show the sincerity of their prayers by those efforts and sacrifices through means of which ample opportunities have been provided for the education of all the youth of Scotland whose hearts are turned towards the work of the ministry.
The whole sums expended on these colleges and their endowments were stated in 1874 as amounting to £261,353, and they have since been increased.
Migratory Residence of Ministers
Rev. E. Findlater
Rev. A.W. Milroy
Rev. Mr. Garioch
Dr. Guthrie requested to undertake the Scheme
He accepts his Commission
Hearty Response of the People
One Painful Circumstance
Churches, and schools, and colleges were thus provided for; but there was yet another of those great enterprises requiring to be brought before the people – the Manse-building Scheme, which was destined to be so closely associated with the name of Dr. Guthrie.
In rural districts, as all Scotland knows, a manse for the minister is essential, not merely for his personal comfort, but that, dwelling in the midst of his flock, he may have ready means of access to the people. Accordingly, at the Disruption, where money could be found, there were parishes in which the church and the manse were seen rising together.
One instance of this we may take from the parish of Torphichen. Dr. Hetherington had held a prominent place as an able advocate of Free Church principles, through the press and from the platform; and the same energy which he had displayed during the conflict was conspicuous, both in himself and among his leading parishioners, after the battle was over. “The earth,” it is stated, “was begun to be cleared away for the foundation of the church on the 12th day of June, and the church was opened for public worship on the 6th day of August, being the first Sabbath of that month, the whole having been completed within the short space of eight weeks. This almost unequalled rapidity was, under the blessing of God, owing to the remarkable activity and energy of Mr. David Macnair, by whom the whole work was managed. On the 24th day of August Mr. Hetherington entered into the manse, which was also ready for his reception; and on the 2nd day of October the new school was opened by Mr. Alex. Bethune, who had been chosen to be schoolmaster by the congregation after a public examination. Thus, by the singular goodness of God to the people of Torphichen, theirs was the first church, the first manse, and the first school opened for public use in connection with the Free Church of Scotland; and this is here registered, not as a ground of boasting, but of fervent and grateful thanksgiving to that all-gracious God who wrought great things for them.”427
Individual cases such as this, in which manses were built during the first summer, occurred in various parts of the country; but time was needed to bring home to the Church in general a sense of those hardships under which ministers were suffering. Already in a former section we have described the dwellings to which the families of the manse had to retire, involving in many cases trials almost as hard for the people to witness as for the ministers to bear. It may be right, however, to give some additional examples, in order to remind the reader of the extent to which such things prevailed all over the country.
There were localities in which the inconveniences were slight. “I have been badly situated for a residence,” says Mr. Gibson, of Kirkbean; “sometimes under the necessity of living with one family, and sometimes with another. Now  I am living with a large family for a time, and in a very small cottage, in every way uncomfortable for a minister’s residence.”428
A migratory life such as this had its discomforts, but frequently the trials were of a more serious kind. “Mr. Edmondston, of Ashkirk, was a man of much refinement and classical culture, in whom learning and piety were always exhibited in happy union. … When the Disruption became inevitable, he did not hesitate to surrender one of the few good livings in the south of Scotland – a beautiful manse and glebe, and the position of a parish minister, which, to one of his tastes and education, was more trying than the surrender of income. … Certain legal difficulties were interposed in the way of granting a site for a manse. Mr. Edmonston accordingly was obliged to take up his residence in a small house four miles distant from his church, and, being soon deprived of this, he had to remove to a damp, decayed farmhouse three miles farther distant. Under the excessive fatigue to which he had thus been exposed, and in this unhealthy residence, his health failed, and it was only after a lengthened sojourn at Harrogate that he was enabled to resume his ministerial labours. In 1845 he transferred his residence to Selkirk. Here he remained for fourteen years, subjected to all the inconvenience of carrying on his pastoral work at the distance of six miles from his flock. Few ministers suffered more. For nearly eight years he walked every Lord’s day to his church and back, after preaching and holding a Sabbath school. He was accustomed to say, when remonstrated with, ‘It is my Master’s work, and I rejoice to do it.’ But the fatigue and excitement proved too great a strain on his constitution, and he was again ordered to the south of England.”429
In contrast to this and the cases which follow, it ought to be acknowledged that among the landlords of Scotland opposed to the Free Church there were some who acted a very generous part towards the outgoing ministers. One of these was the Marquis of Tweeddale, who, during the conflict, had resisted the claims of the Church, without, however, allowing any keenness of controversy to interfere with the kindness of private intercourse. In 1843 he was in India as Governor of Madras, but, opposed though he was to the Disruption, he did not forget his parish minister, for whose personal comfort in that time of trial he showed the most kind and thoughtful consideration.
Dr. Thomson, then of Yester, writes: “At first there seemed to be even greater difficulty in procuring a dwelling-house than in procuring a place for public worship. If Lord Tweeddale had been at home, I was sure that he would have given me one of his empty houses in the village for the accommodation of my family; but I was not sure that the factor – though he always acted a fair and honourable part – would feel at liberty to grant it. At that time, however – before the Disruption – I went to him to inquire if he could. He told me that he had just had a letter from his lordship at Madras, to say that he hoped I would not leave the manse; but that if I did, I was to take any house of his that I might prefer. The factor offered me the choice of two houses, and pressed me to take the larger one; but I preferred the smaller cottage on account of its superior situation and view. I asked him what the rent would be. He replied that his instructions were that I was to sit rent-free. I demurred to this; and at length the difficulty was removed by his saying that it would be £6 yearly. So that, unlike many of my less favoured brethren, my difficulty was not about getting a house, but about inducing the owner to accept any rent for it. I have great pleasure in recording this, in gratitude to my noble patron, and also to his factor, Henry M. Davidson, Esq. In a week or two after the Disruption we quitted the manse; and this unquestionably was the most painful part of the whole process. It was done very rapidly by my worthy partner. In the morning I went to Haddington to attend a meeting of Presbytery, and when I returned in the evening, I found the manse empty and the cottage in beautiful order; so that I was almost inclined to say, like Dr. N. Paterson, of Glasgow, at the Convocation, that the lifeboat looked nearly as beautiful as the ship.”430
Such acts of kindness should not be forgotten, though the contrast only sets other cases in a more painful light.
At Forgandenny, Mr Drummond states: “Before leaving home for the Disruption Assembly I arranged with a neighbour who had a couple of comfortable rooms to spare, to let us have them should we require them. And when the great event had actually taken place, I wrote to my wife, who remained in the manse during my absence, to remind that person of his promise, and to make sure that we should have the apartments. His answer was that he dared not, and plainly signified that he had been warned of the risk he would incur should he let them to us. …
“There being now no other suitable dwelling in the parish, we were obliged to take refuge in a small thatched cottage in the village, where we remained for upwards of four months, till the health of both of us began to suffer, and our medical friend insisted that we should remove as speedily as possible. In that cottage we had but one small room for all purposes; our servant had to sleep and prepare our victuals in another cottage.”431
The privations thus submitted to were often of the most painful kind. A much respected minister writes that, “when he and his family left the manse, they took up their abode in a house, … the only one they could get in the parish; and the place was so small that they had to pack two nurses and eight children into two beds which were scarcely large enough to hold two adults.”432
It was not easy to exchange comfortable manses for such dwellings. How this was done in most cases we have already seen; but additional examples may be given, still further to show how such experiences were met, and especially what impressions were made on the children of the manse.
The Rev. Eric Findlater, at Lochearnhead, writes to his father: “I well remember the leaving of the manse. It was in a warm but dull July night. During the day all was excitement about the house, in consequence of the sale; but towards the evening the people had dispersed, and I accompanied the children in sight of the farm-house where they were to spend the night, but soon returned. At the manse I found none but yourself and my mother. You may remember, about this time the godly miller from Balnakeel came up, and that either he or yourself joined in prayer. I could do little else than traverse all the rooms in the house for the last time, which I did again and again, a hundred youthful and pleasing associations crowding upon me at every step. At length the miller departed. I remember that neither my mother nor you spoke much, and when you wished to lock the door, she insisted on doing so herself, and with her own hands quenching the dying embers of the nursery fire. Having done this, she turned the key in the door of that house in which she was born, and where she had spent the greater part of her life. Not a word was spoken. We then slowly walked away, and when outside the gate that bounds the glebe, we stood for an instant and looked back – I trust, none of us in the spirit of Lot’s wife – and then resumed our silent walk. I remember thinking at the time, when looking on you as a houseless old man that night, I felt prouder of having such a father than if I had seen you sitting in the house we had just left enjoying otium cum dignitate, but wanting the approbation of a good conscience, which at that moment I was convinced you enjoyed without the least alloy. As we proceeded to the inn, the people had too much of the fine feelings so characteristic of the poor Highlanders to allow them to make any open or noisy demonstration, though there was many a weeping eye and sobbing heart among them. When we arrived at the inn, my dear mother’s courage, which had never failed during the hard ordeal of the previous days, now gave way, and got relief in a gush of womanly feeling in the privacy of her own chamber.”433
So also, at Crailing, Roxburghshire, the Rev. A.W. Milroy states: “It was a lovely evening in July when the manse was left. When all was ready, and they were about to start, my father gathered his family in the empty room, and then kneeling down, commended us all in prayer to God’s keeping and love. Such times were never forgotten even by the youngest. Long afterwards my brother, who had knelt as a boy in that room, wrote, when embarking for Turkey for service in the Crimean war: ‘I remember our father assembling us all in Crailing manse, and committing us to the care of our Heavenly Father. In like manner I now commit myself to His watchful love.'”434
But it is of the trials that were met with after the change that we have now to speak.
Only they who had seen Mr. Garioch in the manse of Old Meldrum can appreciate what he tells us of his new home: – “When my late wife and I, with our servants, left the manse of the Established Church at Meldrum, we took up our abode in what was called the stocking-house, probably from the purpose to which it had been applied by a former proprietor. … It consisted of four apartments – two on the ground floor, which were used, one for the kitchen, and the other as a place for lumber; and two on the next floor, the one occupied as a sitting-room, and the other as our sleeping apartment. The larger part of the latter room was so low in the roof, and nothing above but the naked rafters, with a flooring over them, that I had to walk very warily, and to be careful lest I struck my head against one or other of them. There was also a sort of loft or garret above these, into which as much of our furniture as it could contain was packed, and the remainder not used by ourselves was received under safe custody by our kind neighbours and friends. While residing here, my dear wife was seized with typhus fever, under which, in this poor state of accommodation, she lay for several weeks; but, through the great mercy of our God, she was again restored to health; and to the praise and glory of His grace I can say that, during all the hardships of that period, we enjoyed the greatest peace and tranquillity of soul, and many tokens of the goodness of our Heavenly Father. One of our servants, while we were in this house, also had an attack of fever.”435
The breaking up of families was another trial of that time, of which many examples might be given. In Aberdeenshire there were two brothers – Mr. Henry Simson, of Chapel of Garioch, and Mr. David Simson, of Oyne – who were held in high respect and esteem by all classes of society. “At Oyne, Mr. David Simson could not obtain a house to dwell in, in any part of the parish or neighbourhood. At last he got two small rooms and a bed-closet from a day-labourer, who occupied the old schoolhouse. This house had been condemned as unsafe several years before. The joists were quite gone, the stair was rotten and propped up. There were holes in the doors, some inches wide. The windows at times neither kept out rain, wind, nor snow. A great part of the roof was twice blown off while he possessed it. Still it was the only house in the parish that could be obtained. Mr. Simson was thankful to get it, and lived in it for nearly six years.”436
In regard to Mr. Henry Simson, it is stated that “the evil which he felt most keenly was the difficulty he experienced in providing in the scene of his labours a suitable residence for himself and his family. He often mourned over his protracted separation from them. … He was under the necessity of sending his wife and their numerous young family to Aberdeen, a distance of twenty miles, where they had to remain three years; while he, during that period, in order to reside in the midst of his flock, was constrained to betake himself to lodgings of a very insufficient and uncomfortable description, granted by a farmer. The proprietor, however, did not approve of this, and gave notice to the farmer that this would not be permitted, and desired him to inform Mr. Simson that he must remove, which accordingly he was obliged to do. He then got a small, damp cottage, in another part of the parish in which he had faithfully laboured for no less a period than twenty-six years, and there, we believe, he contracted a disease which resulted in his death.”437
Another trying case was that of Mr. Inglis, at Edzell. “On the 20th of June I and my family left the manse, and went to a house in the village, where we had very insufficient accommodation. We had only three small apartments and two very small closets. The largest apartment was about ten feet square, and when the family assembled for worship there was barely room to kneel round a small table in the middle of the room. A place for a kitchen was fitted up in an outhouse forty yards away from the room where we took our meals. We were directly opposite the inn, and visitors there were much amused for years to see the dinner of the Free Church minister and his family carried up a lane and down a street to the place where they dwelt. They always saw, however, that we were neither starved nor starving, as some of our Moderate friends and fearful supporters anticipated that we would be; but, on the contrary, that we really were getting something to eat and keep us alive. The rooms that we occupied would only hold a very small part of my furniture, and the bulkiest and best of it was sent to friends’ houses in the neighbourhood. It thus happened to be in three different parishes, and two different counties. I used to joke a good deal about this, and speak of my town and two country residences, in the one of which I could sit upon my own chairs, and in the other stretch my legs under my own mahogany, … The insufficient accommodation in which I and my family were cooped up at length produced the inevitable consequence. Gastric fever broke out amongst us. I escaped it myself, but I was for six weeks prevented from putting off my clothes, as some of those who were in the fever needed constant attendance by night as well as day. My health, in consequence of this night-work and want of rest, together with my anxiety about those who were ill, began to give way. The Rev. Mr. Nixon, of St. John’s, Montrose, on a friendly visit which he paid me, saw the state I was in, and resolved that it should be endured no longer.” 438
It is not to be wondered at if, under such a strain, painful results frequently followed. The case of Mr. Davidson, of Kilmalie, was formerly referred to, and the hardships under which his wife’s health gave way, and her life was ultimately sacrificed. Five times he had to change his temporary places of residence, refusing to leave his people, though the wretched accommodation with which he was content was again and again taken from him. “He was driven to Fort-William, over an arm of the sea, which he had to cross in an open boat on every occasion on which he visited his people. … The heart of this worthy man filled, and he burst into tears when he spake of his trials; . .. yet he makes little complaint. He expresses his determination to remain by his people, and even speaks kindly of those that have done him wrong.”439 But the inevitable consequences followed. “I was suddenly laid low with a dangerous illness, which brought on a stroke of paralysis, in consequence of which I was laid aside from my work for a period of twelve months, during which period my pulpit was supplied partly by the kindness of friends, and partly by probationers appointed by the Church.”440 “It was an illness,” says one who knew him well, “from which he never thoroughly recovered.”441
But not only did disease enter these desolate homes; there was death, as the above extracts show. We have recorded the cases of Baird of Cockburnspath, and the Mackenzies of Tongue, described by Dr. Guthrie. Additional instances might still be mentioned, as, for example, Mr. Thomson, of Peterculter – a young minister of high promise, who was believed to have died of the damp of an unhealthy cottage, the only residence he could obtain in the midst of his people.
The sight of such things going on in the country roused men’s feelings. At Edzell, the condition of Mr. Inglis and his family led to a movement, headed by Mr. Nixon, in which many friends took part. Contributions were raised throughout the Synod; a feu was purchased in the village, at a price beyond its value; and a commodious cottage was built and presented to the minister.
The feeling thus roused in Forfarshire by an individual case was already stirring all over the country. One of the leading elders, Mr. Thomson, of Banchory, was the first to move, declaring in the Assembly of 1844 that it was a state of things not to be borne. A committee, consisting of none but laymen, was appointed; and a subscription list was opened, the Dowager Marchioness of Breadalbane and Mr. Campbell, of Tilliechewan, leading the way with donations of £500 each. But while the laity were thus eager, the ministers generally regarded the movement as premature. Precedence must be given to the appeals of Mr. Macdonald and Dr. Welsh. They therefore laid an arrest upon the proposed efforts, resolving that “until the Church’s necessary machinery was all in working order they would not allow their personal comfort to be consulted.” The progress of such movements, however, in those days was rapid. Within a year all that was asked for those schemes had been subscribed, the way was clear, and in May, 1845, it was felt that the building of manses must be set about in serious earnest.
That the cause was good no one could doubt, the only thing required was an advocate to do for it what Mr. Macdonald had done for the schools and Dr. Welsh for the college. A most fortunate choice it was when – on the suggestion, it is believed, of Dr. Chalmers – Dr. Guthrie was called to undertake the work. It would be difficult to say whether the cause was more fortunate in its advocate, or the advocate in his cause. That oratory, of which he was a consummate master, could nowhere have found a theme more congenial or better fitted to call out the powers with which he was gifted, and never could the cause have found one whose pleadings and appeals were so sure to urge home its claims on the hearts of men. On the last day of May, 1845, he stood before the Assembly, and, in the act of accepting his commission, he declared that for such an object he was prepared to spend and be spent. “I go forth on the promise of God’s Word, … the best guarantee for the goodness of a cause, and the best means of raising the sympathy of the human heart.”442
Several weeks were needed to make preparation for a period of absence so prolonged, but on the 9th of July all was ready, and he left to begin operations in Glasgow. Dr. Buchanan will remember, he afterwards said, he met me at the railway terminus, and saw me with nothing but a flower in my buttonhole. I knew that I had a good cause; I knew that I had good clients. “I showed no little common sense in going to Glasgow first. I understand very little of music, but I understand enough to know that if you begin to sing in a low key, you cannot easily get up to a higher one; and it is with money as with music – if you begin on a low key, you cannot get up without great difficulty.”443
Very generously did the friends of the Free Church in that city justify this confidence. At first, the intention at headquarters had been to raise £50,000, but before a single step was taken, the friends in Glasgow – prominent among whom was Professor Rainy, M.D. – earnestly urged that the sum aimed at should be raised to £100,000. Aided by such hearty support, Dr. Guthrie began his work; and he was soon able to say, “I have spent three of the happiest days I ever spent in my life in this city. I have gone from house to house, and from counting-room to counting-room, and I have found no cold looks, but genuine kindness. I have often been told, ‘Oh, Mr. Guthrie, there is no use in making a speech. We are quite prepared for you, sir; where’s your book”” The result of these three days was just £10,000; and he was able, six weeks afterwards, to tell the Assembly at Inverness that in Glasgow and its neighbourhood he had raised upwards of £35,000. Cheered by such success, Dr. Guthrie went on his way to encounter the incessant toil of the next ten months, during which “he visited thirteen Synods, fifty-eight Presbyteries, and several hundreds of separate congregations, in many cases preaching the Gospel, always making a fervent appeal of an hour or more for his manse scheme. In the more important places he spent the following day in making personal visits, subscription-book in hand. …
“The speeches which Mr. Guthrie delivered during these months would of themselves fill a volume; and although the main burden of them all was necessarily similar, one is struck, in reading them, by his versatility in adapting his remarks, pathetic or humourous, to the locality, the time, and the class which he addressed.”444
The writer may be allowed to refer to the only meeting of the series at which he was personally present – that held at Fordoun, where Dr. Guthrie was the guest of Captain Burnet, of Monboddo. The district was not far from Brechin and Arbirlot. Dr. Guthrie well knew the class of people, and never did he show more signally the rare power with which he could adapt himself to his audience, and the resistless influence which he wielded, both in the sermon and the address. The result greatly exceeded his expectations. Before going to the meeting, after dining at Monboddo, he had been “somewhat disconcerted by the evident flurry and annoyance into which Captain Burnet was thrown by the disappearance of a pair of spectacles. ‘Too bad! too bad!’ he exclaimed more than once; ‘these glasses cost me fourteen shillings last year in London, and now the money’s gone.’ This don’t look well for my subscription-book to-night, was my mental reflection,” added Dr. Guthrie, in telling the story; “if the loss of a pair of spectacles be counted so serious, how am I to look for £50′ But what was my surprise and delight when Captain Burnet headed the list, after my speech, with a subscription of £200 to the manse fund.”445
Moving thus from place to place all over the country, and raising contributions differing greatly in amount, from the minimum of £5 up to Lord Breadalbane’s munificent subscription of £5000, Dr. Guthrie finished this great undertaking by reporting to the Assembly of 1846 that he had raised £116,370 from 6610 subscribers, being an average of £19 from each. It was a great success, and all the greater because the money had been freely and generously given. “I could bring before you,” he said, addressing the Assembly, “many instances in which I have actually restrained people from subscribing. I may mention one instance, which Mr. Buchanan, of Glasgow, will remember. He and I waited upon a lady in Glasgow, and told her that we had come, not to urge her to give, but to prevent her, when she was called upon, from giving too much. In fact, wherever I went I was cordially received; and I found that I was no beggar at all. I had no more to do than to mention my errand, and the people at once subscribed. Ours, sir, were the generous grapes which yield the wine freely, and not the husks to which they need to apply the screw. So far from pressing, I have often been struck with the way in which many a one put down his subscription; and when my heart was full, and I was ready to say, Thank you, sir, many and many a time I have been answered, ‘You are not to thank us, Mr. Guthrie, but we have to thank you for giving us the opportunity to subscribe.'”446
The money thus raised was energetically administered by the committee of management. The subscriptions were spread over five years, during which the fund was gathered in; but before the third year had closed it was reported that 409 manses were already built or in progress. To each of these the grant from the general fund was from £150 to £200, the rest being left for local subscriptions. From year to year the work went forward, till in 1870 Dr. Buchanan was able to state that 719 manses had been completed, at a cost of £467,350.
This great enterprise thus successfully wrought out has proved in every point of view an unspeakable blessing to the Free Church.
It was a welcome relief to the hearts of many among the laity when they saw their ministers taken out of those comfortless and unhealthy cottages into which they had been driven.
It gave stability to the cause of the Free Church. “The very name of a manse carries permanency with it. It so happens,” said Dr. Guthrie, “that I lately met a man who was a keen opponent of the Free Church, and he said that he thought that the Free Church was getting into a highly dangerous position. As long as she merely built churches he was not afraid of her; she was like a vessel lying in a bay which might be driven out to sea after all; but if she got manses too, she would become like a ship dropping anchor, and which there was little chance of driving back to sea again.”
“It added to the comfort of the minister, supplementing his stipend to the extent of £30 or £40, not rising or falling, but fixed and sure.
“It strengthened his hands for ministerial work in the midst of his people. This was specially true of the brethren in country districts. On them the burden and heat of the day has lain. It fell comparatively little on us who were in the town. … We saw the wave of the Disruption coming upon us – we faced it boldly – it broke over us – and we were little the worse of it. But it was different in country parishes; the wave of the Disruption came, they saw it plainly, and they faced it boldly; but it broke over them, and left, many of them amid the wreck of their worldly all. … I rejoice, among other things, that comfort is coming to them, and that it is not far away.”
There was but one painful circumstance connected with all this – the effect which the labours of these months produced on the health of Dr. Guthrie. “No one,” said Dr. Buchanan, “who was in any way cognisant of his labours, who witnessed the energy with which he threw his whole heart and soul into that movement, who had occasion to observe the extraordinary amount not merely of mental energy, but of bodily strength, given to that cause – none who is acquainted with these circumstances can fail to trace no small measure of the weakness which he now suffers, to his labours on that great occasion.”447 As years passed on these effects were much alleviated, and if the results of such toil were never wholly removed, Dr. Guthrie had at least the satisfaction of feeling that, though he had spent his strength, it was not spent in vain. Over all broad Scotland there were hundreds of pleasant homes, which, but for that Manse Scheme, would never have been built. The ministers of the Free Church had their comforts largely increased, and, what was far more important, they were enabled to live among their people – having access to the families and doing the pastoral work – feeding the flock over which the Holy Ghost had made them overseers.
Trials of the People
Cases of Intimidation
Treatment of Paupers
Penalty for Conscientious Worship
Wish to exclude Free Church Members from Burial in Parish Churchyards
A “Reign of Terror” set up
It is no pleasant task to speak of the trials to which so many of the people were subjected on leaving the Establishment. The ten and a-half millions sterling448 which they have contributed in free-will offerings to the cause of their Church have sufficiently proved how deep and abiding their convictions must have been; but not less was this attested, even at the outset, by the steadfastness with which hardships of many different kinds were unflinchingly endured.
The hostile feeling of adversaries was sometimes seen in matters of very small account. “In a parish by no means so far as 100 miles from Cockburnspath, … some time ago a small rustic bridge, formed of rude planks covered with turf, which furnished a passage to the members of the Free Church over a burn on their way to their place of worship, was found one morning burned to the water-edge. As it was discovered that after this the refractory Free Church goers had succeeded in getting across the burn at a place where it divided itself into two streams, this was ingeniously prevented in all time coming by converting the two streams into one.”449
At Roslin, Mr. Brown preached from a tent in the old Roman Catholic burying-ground for eighteen successive Sabbaths. On one of the Sabbaths “three elderly men, having the appearance of gentlemen, visited Roslin, and spent the day in a variety of amusements, and having dined at the inn, they went to the old graveyard and overturned the tent, left it lying in fragments, and then left in great haste for Edinburgh.”450
“There is a certain southern parish, where the Free Church people gathered from great distances, in a thinly peopled district, for public worship. The summer of 1843 was warm and dry, and that congregation found untold comfort in a fine spring of cool delicious water, which issued from a bank by the roadside, near their place of meeting. This was observed. The proprietor of the soil had a drain dug, and cut off the spring. Such things are remembered still.”451
These annoyances, after all, were of little importance; but soon matters took a more serious form. Sometimes the trial came in the shape of threats, by landlords, and factors, and employers attempting to establish something like a reign of terror.
“Immediately after the Disruption,” says Mr. Forbes, of Woodside, “the female collectors who worked at the cotton factory were told that if they continued to act in that capacity they would be dismissed from their work. Others, accordingly, took their places, until the indignation of the parties in question somewhat cooled, which it soon did.”452
“One of my heritors [at Lesmahagow] met a working-man, who was the proprietor of a single tenement, and said to him, ‘Peter, if you join these Free Church folks, you will lose your house – all will be taken from you to pay law expenses.’ The plain working-man was somewhat disconcerted by this appeal to his fears, and forthwith repeated the matter to his wife, who had a firmer faith. She encouraged her husband, and said, ‘Never mind, Peter; just say to the gentleman, better lose our house than lose our souls.'”453
Dr. Simpson, of Kintore, states: “Both the principal heritors were avowedly hostile, but they never directly interfered with the members of the Free Church, so far as is known to me. Very unscrupulous use, however, was made of the late Lord Kintore’s name by _____, who did all he could to intimidate the smaller tenants. Grievous complaints of this interference were made to me by several of the parties thus heartlessly – and, as I believe, without authority – assailed and threatened. Though most of the people stood firm under these attacks, there can be no doubt that some timid persons gave way before the temptation.”454
“I know of one instance,” said Mr. Carment, of Rosskeen, “in which a pious parishioner in the North was willing to accommodate her pastor and his family in her house. She was told that if she did so it would be to her hurt. Her answer was, ‘Well, I cannot help it, although it be to my hurt – although you should send me to jail for it. I must and will receive that servant of the Lord.'”455
In one of the rural districts of a southern parish there lived a poor woman on the barony of the chief resident heritor. “She alone of all the people on the estate joined the Free Church. Of course, such a bold step was instantly marked by him who seemed resolved that there should be but one conscience in all the barony. A message was openly sent through her son, given to him by the proprietor’s own lips in the midst of a number of workmen engaged on a bridge, for the purpose, I suppose, of striking terror into all, ‘that her husband (he was then upwards of fourscore years of age) must seek another house at the term, if his wife did not cease going to the Free Church.’ In the house to which this message was brought there lived at the time the patriarch of upwards of eighty years and his little grandchild – the fifth generation in the house and on the property. When the message was given in the evening, the spirited woman said to her husband, ‘Wattie, it’s now come to this – we must decide between keeping this house and getting a right and a readiness for the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ ‘Aweel, then,’ said the old patriarch, ‘the thing’s soon decided – gang where your conscience bids; I would gang wi’ ye, if I could gang onywhere. He whom we seek to serve will aye keep some house abune our heads as lang as we’re here.’ She went, as usual, in the face of the proprietor and all his dependents. She abides in the house. It was too strong a step to take in the light of day, to turn out the oldest residenters on the property, the more especially as the old man soon took his last illness.”
But these threats were not confined to labourers and domestics. Farmers also were to be influenced – sometimes indirectly, and at other times by distinct warnings.
Mr. Brown, of Largo, refers to certain of his heritors whose object was to discountenance the members of the Free Church. “They were threatened with the loss of employment, and tenants who were in arrears with the loss of all favour, and no doubt there were those of both classes earnest supporters of the Free Church who had come out, and yet afterwards returned to the Establishment for such reasons.”456
“Different cases of intimidation exercised on the part of landlords towards their tenants have been mentioned to me. One landlord intimated to the farmers on his estate that it would be for their advantage to have nothing to do with the Free Church and that they should remain, like himself, where they were.”457
In another district the intimation was made more distinctly, in a different way. “There lives, west from Stirling, but not within ten miles of the Parliamentary burgh, a certain landed proprietor, who has been receiving rent from his tenants.458 At this audit, as it is called in England, a strange scene happened. When a tenant appeared who still adhered to the Kirk, he was received with a cheerful countenance and a hearty shake of the hand, and 10 per cent, of his rent was returned, with best wishes that it might prosper in his hands. But when a luckless wight459 made his appearance who had adhered to the Free Church, the landlord left the room, and the tenant had his rent to pay to the factor, who had no authority to return him one farthing, but he must pay the whole sum, plack and bawbee, without one single smile from the dignitary, or one wish for his prosperity.”460
When Mr. M’Leod, of Maryborough, went to preach among the parishes of Strathspey, the state of matters was such as is difficult to conceive of. The opposition came from hostile local officials, urged on by the clergy of the Established Church, and “manifested itself in every shape and form. The tents erected in the open air for his preaching were often thrown down at night, the people were interfered with on the high roads when assembling for public worship, every species of annoyance was resorted to, from low threats and insinuations to gross misrepresentations in the public prints. Factors visited tenants, exhibiting a document called the black list, to inform them that they were taking up the names of all that would attend the Free Church, to be produced at the expiry of their leases. Shop-keepers were told that they would forfeit the custom and countenance of the wealthy and influential in the country. Servants of every description holding situations, from the local manager or grieve down to the herd, were threatened with deprivation of office and service. Feuars who signified their intention to grant ground for the Free Church congregation to worship on, had their charters demanded and their rights questioned. Wood merchants were interfered with for selling wood for any Free Church purpose.”461
Such threats were not uttered without the full intention of carrying them into effect. “I saw two servants in livery at the tent,” says Hugh Miller. “They are, I have been told, domestics of _____, a fierce Intrusionist, and have been warned to quit his service at the term for their adherence to the Free Church.”462
“Only yesterday, we heard of a most respectable aged widow who had been just turned away from her employment by the factor of a south-country nobleman, and, after a lifetime of hard service on the estate, thrown on the charity of a married daughter, solely on the ground that she had allowed the worship of God to be conducted in her house by a Free Church minister.”463
“I know an instance in which a servant was turned off for no other reason than his adherence to the Free Church. When he asked his master if he had not always proved a faithful servant to him, what was his master’s reply’ ‘Oh yes, you have always proved a faithful, honest servant, but I cannot keep you if you will not leave those ministers.’ ‘Sir,’ retorted the servant, ‘if I give up my conscience for food and clothing, you could trust but little to my honesty.'”464
“Our difficulties,” says Mr. Taylor, of Flisk, Fifeshire, “came thick upon us; many of the neighbouring proprietors were roused to opposition by the extent of the movement. Mr. _____, of _____, prevented his cottars and dependants from worshipping with us, and those who were resolute in their adherence he dismissed from his grounds and service, ostensibly for other reasons, but this was known to be the real one. He traces his lineal descent from Claverhouse.”465
“The spirit of the Moderates,” again writes Hugh Miller, from Cromarty, “in this part of the country is bitterness itself. Servants dismissed, labourers thrown out of employment, angry interviews between landlord and tenant – we hear of little else in this corner.”466
But the extent to which all this was carried may perhaps be best learned from a statement of Mr. Hamilton, convener of the Building Committee, when giving in his report in May, 1844: “The committee do not intend at present to bring forward details. … They will only select as a specimen a single sentence, contained in a letter lately received from a most respectable minister, who, speaking of his own parish, says: ‘About fifty servants and day-labourers, several of them with weak families and destitute of means, have been dismissed and thrown out of employment, and everything done against them to render their adherence bitter. Yesterday, in addition to the servants removed at last term, about twenty more, with their families, were served with summonses of removal for supporting and attending the Free Church; while such as agree to oppose it are called from distant parishes to supply their places, and are encouraged and protected, whatever character they bear.'”467
There was much to regret in the state of society which all this was fitted to produce; but in every part of Scotland there are stories innumerable of how fearlessly the old Scottish spirit of independence rose to resist such attempts at oppression, showing at the same time the enlightened attachment of the people to what they believed to be the cause of God and of truth.
For the most part, the resistance was as quiet as it was firm. Mr. Middleton of Torosay, Mull, writes: “In the year 1843 I was treating with Colonel _____ about a farm; and when speaking of the sheep stock upon it, I got a plain enough hint that it might be mine were I to leave off certain divisive courses, as some termed the Free Church movement. But I was enabled through grace to resist, and have had no cause to repent since, either on the score of principle or of worldly profit; for by following the path of duty I have had a clear conscience, and Providence has since prospered me in my worldly circumstances more than during any previous period of my life.”468
At Latheron, where the people had stood out against all hostile influence, the leading heritor, who was “highest in rank as well as in zeal for Moderatism, resolved to make one more attempt before yielding. His farm-grieve, who was also manager of his extensive estate, had been with him for a great many years – probably not less than twenty – and on his services he placed the highest possible value; but he having adhered to the Free Church, it might perhaps be supposed that his example had influenced the other servants and tenants also, so it was resolved to select him for the first assault. One day, therefore, his master called him, and having stated how much annoyed he was that he and all the other servants and tenants had left the good old Kirk, how long they had been together, and how well pleased and satisfied he always had been with him, he added, ‘I fear this foolish breach will be the means of separating us, unless you come back to the Kirk; for it will never do for me and you to be going to different kirks; so think of it and come with me, and we will continue good friends, as we have always been.’ The poor grieve was, of course, taken a little by surprise; but, being a man of good sense and resolution, as well as firmness, he at length said that he was sorry that his honour – for he was an honourable – had thought of interfering in a matter of this kind; that they certainly had been long together; that he felt he had endeavoured to serve him faithfully to the best of his ability, and was willing to do so still; but that if this was to depend on his joining the Establishment in its now altered state, he was quite ready, rather than do so, to leave his honour’s service at the first term. This decided and suitable reply settled the whole matter, and saved the other servants from being interfered with; for the grieve’s services were too valuable to be dispensed with, and he was never again questioned on the subject.”469
“Mr. _____, who held an extensive sheep-farm in one of the parishes of Sutherland, was very desirous that all in his employment should adhere to the Establishment. One day in the summer of 1843, when his shepherds had occasion to meet at sheep-washing or sheep-shearing, he rode up to the place, accompanied by his son; and, addressing ‘the manager,’ said that he had brought a paper for them all to sign. He was going to a distant part of his farm, and would call for it on his return, when he expected to find that all had signed it. The paper contained the following declaration – “We, the undersigned, adhere to the Established Church of Scotland.”470 When Mr. _____ and his son had left, the manager (an excellent and very intelligent man), addressed the shepherds – “Well, men, I know what I’ll do; but don’t let me influence you. What do you say? Will you sign?” An emphatic and unanimous “No!” was the reply. “Well, but,” continued the manager, “don’t you think that it would be more respectful to sign something, rather than to return the paper blank?” and, turning up the other side of the paper, he wrote – “We, the undersigned, adhere to the Free Church of Scotland.” This he himself signed first, and then all the shepherds adhibited their names.
When Mr. _____ and his son rode back, he asked the manager – “Well, is that paper signed by you all?” “Yes, sir,” replied the manager. “We have all signed it, but on the other side.” Mr. _____ turned the paper round, examined it silently, pocketed it, and rode off without uttering a word. He never afterwards gave the slightest annoyance to any of his shepherds because of their adherence to the Free Church.”471
Sometimes the interference was not only resisted, but resented as unrighteous. Lord Kinnoull, with whom the fatal Auchterarder litigation originated, was not content with doing battle in the civil courts, but, aided by a zealous factor, he carried the war among his own dependants and day-labourers. The following will illustrate the spirit of the time: During the Ten Years’ Conflict, Church-defence associations were formed in many parishes, one of the objects being to raise funds to meet the expenses of litigation, deputations, &c., needful during the controversy. One of these associations was formed in Aberdalgie, Perthshire, under the direction of the parish minister. This soon reached the ears of the factor, who endeavoured to put a stop to it by threatening with ejection from his lordship’s service all who should subscribe to any such fund. The following conversation took place “between the factor and the only surviving elder of the parish, as it was reported to the minister by the elder himself: –
“Factor. I hear the minister is raising money by subscription from the parishioners. Why is he doing this? Into whose pocket does the money go?
“Elder. I understand it is for the purpose of defraying the expenses of publishing information among the people on the Non-intrusion controversy.
“F. Do you subscribe to the funds, David?
“E. Yes, sir, I do.
“F. Do you know if any of Lord Kinnoull’s work-people or retainers subscribe to this scheme of the minister?
“E. Yes, I do; almost all of them are subscribers to it.
“F. Will you give me their names, as they are not to be allowed to continue in his lordship’s employment if they subscribe.
“E. You can ask themselves, sir, as you have asked me.
“F. Oh yes, to be sure I can; but it would save me trouble if you were to mention them.
“E. Am I to understand that because I am a subscriber to the Church Defence Fund, you intimate now to me that I am dismissed from Lord Kinnoull’s service?
“F. Not just yet; I’ll give you timely warning of your dismissal.
“E. Perhaps it will save his lordship and you the trouble of doing so, if I inform you now that it is my intention to leave his lordship’s service at next term.
“F. Oh, very well.
“The elder here referred to was house-carpenter to the Earl of Kinnoull, a godly man. … The old man died in 1872 at an advanced age, in his native parish of Forgandenny, beloved and respected as a Christian man, and an elder of the Free Church.”472
A similar spirit was exhibited in a case which occurred farther south, where conscience was attempted to be overborne. The lady to whom a large part of the parish belonged “had a superior servant as forester, who had been born and brought up on the property, and was the special favourite of her late husband, by whom he was respected and trusted in everything. He had the boldness to join the Free Church. The factor, who knew his worth, came to him, and told him that the step had given the deepest displeasure, and that if he did not return to the Establishment, he would certainly lose his place, her resentment was so great. ‘This comes well from her, who is a dissenter herself, and doing more to ruin the Establishment, by building an Episcopalian chapel, than anybody else. But you may tell her, if she thinks I will make a worse servant by trying to be a servant of God according to my own conscience, I am as ready to part with her as she can be to part with me.’ He was too good a servant, and too indispensable to the property, to be dismissed. Though all the wonted marks of favour were withdrawn, he was continued in his place.”
It must not, however, be supposed that, in all cases, this spirit of hostility failed to reach its victims. John Smith was the Marquis of Bute’s head-gardener at Mount Stuart. He was a remarkable man of God, of whom William Burns says, “His memory was sweet to many, and to me also, … as I had often enjoyed the solemn privilege of visiting his abode, and being benefited by his heavenly converse and prayers.” At the Disruption he was cast out of his situation for following the Free Church. He had held many meetings for prayer at Kilchattan Bay, and when debarred by the factor from the people’s houses, he hired a room in the inn, and met them there. “He was in the act of beginning one of these meetings when the letter was put into his hands which dismissed him from his place.” In 1846 Mr. Burns found his widow at Rothesay, in a cottage which he had built in the midst of a garden, rented and cultivated in his last days for his support. She was unwell and in difficulties, as her husband had always been open-handed, saying, the Marquis would not see him want. Mr. Burns was able to give assistance for the time by handing over “a few pounds” which the people had raised for himself, but which he said he doubted not God intended for her. “She wept as she received it.”473
One of the most painful parts of this painful subject was the treatment to which paupers were subjected, in the attempt to use the poor’s funds as a means of overbearing their conscience, and forcing them in their helplessness to attend the Established Church. A general statement on this point was made by Mr. Dunlop at the Assembly of 1844: “It seems that in some instances poor people, influenced by the common sympathy which has been so generally evinced towards the Free Church, have been desirous to share the privilege of contributing their mite – the merest trifle – at the sacrifice of some little thing which they call a luxury, such as tobacco, and thus be enabled to put a halfpenny into the plate on collection day. … We do not ask these contributions, by any means, nor do we expect them; but it would be a cruelty to refuse to take anything when offered in the feeling that accompanies them. Well, inquiries are in many cases now instituted, whether or not the poor people give anything in this shape to the Free Church, or to any other congregation with which they are connected, and it has been proposed by the heritors that in any case where a pauper is found to contribute to the Free Church he shall be cut off the roll.”474
At Lairg, Sutherlandshire, they fell on an ingenious device. The day of the sacramental fast of the Free Church was appointed as the day for the yearly distribution of poor’s money. Few of the paupers attended, and such as did not attend, received no allowance.475
Individual cases of refusal and of threats are spoken of as occurring in various parts of the country.
At Gartly, owing to “the hostility of the Duke of Richmond – the sole proprietor of the parish – and his factors, together with the means used by some of the Moderates in the parish (a small minority, but influential in point of worldly status) with those who wanted strength of principle, not a few who subscribed their adherence to the Church were induced to draw back.” Mr. Robertson mentions the case of “an old woman – a pauper, who was imbecile – she was threatened that if she continued a hearer of the Free Church she would get no allowance from the poor’s fund. Well, well, she replied, I’ll follow Christ.”476
In another locality we are told: “Even the paupers were not thought beneath the arts of some of the heritors. At their meetings, and in the act of administering public funds drawn from all parties, some of them insisted upon knowing whether the poor persons went to the Free Church, and whether they gave anything to its funds, with looks and tones which left a very distinct impression that all in such connection would be deprived of their legal allowance. All the paupers, accordingly, with the exception of a very few, remain in the Establishment. The following fact may be relied upon. It was told by the young woman who is all but silly, yet a real saint withal. The heritors’ clerk, who managed the small property on which she usually worked, came to her one day, and said that unless she ceased to attend the Free Church, the work would be taken from her; and not only so, but the aliment from her old widowed bed-rid mother, one of the paupers, who lived with her. Her reply was, she could not help them doing what they liked with her mother and her; there was One who would take care of them. One thing only she had to care for, and that was to gang where her Master bid her.”
At Errol, Dr. Grierson states: “It is painful to add that there have been instances in which the private gratuities distributed to the poor at the time of Christmas were rigidly withheld from those individuals, however destitute, who attended my ministrations. … Their reply was, Well, poor as we are, we will not sell our consciences for a peck of meal or a firlot of coals.”477
“I felt the utmost indignation, not long ago,” says Dr. Begg, “when a devout old woman came into my house and told me the following tale. She said that she and her ancestors had been servants in the family of a nobleman for many generations – she was above seventy – but the other night, said she, I allowed a preacher of the Free Church to come into my house and conduct the worship of God, and next morning, at ten o’clock, I was dismissed from my employment, and I am now houseless and destitute in the world.”478
Thus among the very humblest ranks of society the spirit of hostility sought to overbear the consciences of those who seemed to be defenceless. But it is strange to observe how some of the highest and noblest in the land were subjected to similar treatment.
In June, 1845, the Duchess of Gordon wrote: “I believe you judge very truly, that the honour from man I have so long enjoyed and cherished will be much withdrawn.” “The penalty for worshipping Christ was no longer to be summoned before the judges, and to be fined like her ancestor, Lady Mary Brodie; but it was to stand on a pinnacle alone, bearing His reproach. To give a single instance: she had a visit from Lord Aberdeen, who, after the controversy had terminated in the Disruption, was most liberal in his own district in granting sites and otherwise, but was naturally vexed at the new position taken by the Duchess. He reasoned with her earnestly on the line of conduct she had adopted; and when his arguments failed, he remonstrated with a warmth unlike the usual amiableness of his disposition, and the extreme courtesy of his manners. But the able statesman mistook his gentle hostess when he hoped to turn her from her course by strong representations, unsupported by convincing arguments. The Duchess felt the interview more keenly than almost any incident that we have ever seen cross her path. But, like the taunt of Methodism in earlier years, it only tended to root her more deeply in her own convictions, and to make her advance more boldly in the way she had chosen.”479
There is a form of trial with which it is difficult to deal – those family divisions, so delicate in themselves, and so painful in their results, which men sought naturally to bury out of sight. From the Mss. we select two cases, in illustration of what was only too common in the land. They occurred in parts of the country far apart from each other; and we not only suppress all reference to names and places, but we shall avoid even the language in which they are recorded.
At a distance from Edinburgh there lived a proprietor, in whose family there was a favourite daughter. Immediately before the Disruption, she had been awakened and brought to the saving knowledge of Christ, under a series of sermons which accidentally, as men would say, she had the opportunity of hearing in an unexpected way. As the minister whose words had reached her heart was one of those who afterwards formed the Free Church, she was naturally led to examine the questions then in debate. After a course of reading and prayerful consideration, she adopted the principles of the Free Church, and resolved to become a member. The announcement of her determination called forth a degree of anger which none could have anticipated. At first, she was cast out of her father’s home, and had to take refuge elsewhere. When readmitted, it was to be treated very much as an alien by him who had formerly been one of the fondest of fathers. The distance to the parish church, and also to the Free, was great, so that the family and servants had to drive. She was forbid a place in the family carriage, forbid a place in the conveyance used by the servants; and year after year, in the heat of summer and cold of winter, the strange spectacle was seen of the once-loved daughter walking the long miles on foot, while the father, in his carriage, passed her on the road, and even the servants did not dare to interfere in her behalf. It was in vain that his own relatives, holding his own views on Church matters, remonstrated against such treatment. There was every reason to believe that he most sincerely thought he was doing God service.
In another widely different district there occurred a yet more painful case. Among the resident landowners was a family who had sent two daughters to be educated in Edinburgh, and on their return, following their conscientious views of duty, they announced their resolution to join the Free Church. This was resisted, and by force they were compelled to attend the Establishment. For a time this went on, but in the case of the younger, the burden lying on her conscience became more than she could bear, and one winter morning she rose in the early dawn, left her home, and went to some relatives, where her sister soon after joined her. Following out their convictions, they became members of the Free Church; but it was an offence which their mother never forgave. In the course of the following year she took ill. Her daughters begged humbly and earnestly to be allowed to come home and nurse her, but she was inexorable. The painful disease rapidly ran its course, and she died, never having admitted her daughters into her presence.
In contrast to these painful cases there is an incident briefly recorded by Mr. Davidson, of Latheron, Caithness, which deserves to be mentioned. “For one of the proprietors I felt very much. He was a widower, and had an only daughter, about fifteen years of age, and when Sabbath came he wished her to accompany him to church to welcome the new minister. This she begged to be excused from doing, assigning as a reason that she did not think they were a right Church at all, after the unfaithful way in which they had acted. So he had to go alone, and she joined us, as did her elder brother also, when he came to the parish.”480
There was still another evidence of hostile feeling which must not be left unnoticed – the attempt to pursue the members of the Free Church even beyond death. “In the winter of 1845,” says Mr. Grant, of Ardoch, “we were interdicted from our burying-ground, bought and inclosed with our own money.” It seems that the ground being attached to a quoad sacra church, an interdict was issued against the right of burial of members of the Free Church. It was noticed that immediately after this prohibition the first two who were buried there were the most influential and wealthiest of the party – husband and wife – who had taken out the interdict.481
Those friends of the Establishment in Ardoch who wished to exclude the members of the Free Church from burial did not stand alone in their desire. The following notice of incidents in the parish of Kilmodan (Glendaruel), Argyllshire, will show what sometimes occurred in remote parts of the country, where the power of public opinion could not be brought to bear: –
“In the class of parishes to which mine belonged, it was not till the Disruption was fairly past that the hostility of our opponents reached its full height. Till the event took place, they always laughed to scorn the idea of hundreds of ministers resigning their livings, and even should one here and there, more fanatical than the rest, make the sacrifice, they were just as confident that to maintain a Free Church ministry in places like mine was the wildest of all projects. But when they saw us steadily pursuing our wonted path, not even staggered by the blow which they thought was to annihilate us, and our principles striking their roots deeper and wider everywhere, their wrath knew no bounds. A ‘reign of terror’ was then set up; I speak the words of truth and soberness when I say so.482
Mr. M’Lean goes on to speak of the leading heritor who “took it at once for granted that, in the emergency which had now occurred, the cure of souls, of which, in his view, I was now stripped, was added to his other duties, jure devoluto, as the ‘civil magistrate’ of the place. And he certainly magnified this odd mixture of offices in many remarkable ways. On one of his warlike rounds of weekly visitation, he came suddenly and unexpectedly on a group of eager inquirers, earnestly discussing the question of the day. Fiercely fixing on a young Free Churchman, who was endeavouring to make good his retreat, as the presumed fomenter of these treasonable practices, he thus addressed him: ‘How dare you, sir, speak on such subjects in this glen? I must put them down! The charge of this parish is committed to me as an heritor, a gentleman, and a justice of the peace; and if ever I catch you at this work again, I’ll split your head down to the shoulders.’ And, suiting the action to the word, he grasped and brandished his heavy-handled whip. I cannot, especially in such short space, do any justice to this scene. The language, however, I give literally as employed, and communicated to me at the time by the youth who, now a respectable teacher in one of our provincial academies, is still ready to bear witness to this and other specimens of the ‘reign of terror’ in the glen.
“Such being the law and practice of the place, as laid down by its highest authority, ‘an heritor, a gentleman, and a justice of the peace,’ it was only what might be expected if others were led to employ a mode of argument recommended by such eminent example. And so it was. Not long after, a poor lame lad, a servant of mine, sent by me to superintend the valuation of some furniture which my successor in the manse wished to retain, was, while on that duty, knocked down and trampled on so severely, that he went home, took to his bed, and in a short time died. He told me repeatedly, on his death-bed, that it was for his expressed opinion on the Church question he was assaulted, and that he ascribed his death to the injuries then received. I reported the case to the procurator-fiscal of the district, who came and took a kind of precognition, with which I had every reason to be dissatisfied, neither my presence nor evidence being invited at all! …
“One instance more, and I have done. As the drift of what was done was to make the people believe that no spiritual ordinances or privileges were to be had at the hands of Disruption ministers, so, with the same view, the monstrous threat was held out that, the churchyard being heritors’ property, they had the power, and would exercise it, of excluding from burial there all who seceded from the Established Church. An elder of mine, venerable for his years and gray hairs, singularly amiable and inoffensive in his manners, and highly respected for his guilelessness and worth, was one day musing over the graves of his children, some of whom had grown to manhood, giving fair promise of being the staff of his old age. Suddenly, in the midst of these sad and sacred meditations, the gentleman to whom I have so often alluded came upon him, and had the heart to say, ‘Unless you leave that Free Church, I’ll take good care that your old bones shall never lie beside those below.’ The words are taken down from the old man’s lips, literally translated, for he spoke in Gaelic. It was when standing on the very spot that he himself told me the touching story; and on my remarking that surely the savage threat was not made in earnest, ‘But indeed it was, though, and in rage too,’ said the gentle old man; and as he spoke through the quivering smile with which he tried, but failed, to veil the agony in his features, I saw ‘the iron enter into his soul.’
“Such are a few of the leading facts in my experience of Disruption times. They are not only truthful, but capable of being substantiated still. They may give some idea of the relentless and unceasing process, applied for years, to waste and wear out our people and our principles. Only a small part, however, has been told; and even in the case of some whose hearts and consciences were with us, but who shrank from the threatened ordeal of ‘forsaking all things,’ I have witnessed tears of anguish and entreaties to accept a contribution, ‘to add their stone to the building of our church,’ of which, though at the distance of ten years, I could not speak more particularly, lest the same vindictive spirit of persecution should be guided even yet  to its prey.
“The worst is now over. We may say ‘Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit.‘ By the good hand of God upon us, that brighter future has already come. …
“And even apart from the joyful contrast, not all unpleasant in themselves were those troublous times. In them the Word of the Lord was precious, men’s hearts were stirred to their depths, God’s quickening Spirit was sent forth, and there were times of refreshing from on high. Thus ‘He giveth songs in the night.'”483
Gospel Preaching welcomed
Odd Circumstances occur
Cases of Health impaired and Life endangered
Martyr Spirit needed
It was a happy circumstance that among the outgoing ministers so many were in the vigour of youth, and ready to devote the first and best of their strength to the cause of Christ. It is difficult to give an idea of the toil that was required. Ministers and preachers had gone out, more than 600 strong; but the people seemed at once to recognise the Free Church as the true old Church of Scotland, and the call for the supply of ordinances at her hands rapidly assumed national proportions. A committee was appointed to make arrangements, but the difficulties were great. “The problem,” as Dr. Candlish stated in giving in the first report, “was to meet the large and still increasing demand with a greatly inadequate supply; and this explains much of the embarrassment which the Committee has experienced in carrying out the object for which it was appointed. We were working out the insoluble problem of how one loaf of bread was to do the work of two, or how a hundred ministers and probationers were to do the work of two hundred. This was the problem we had to solve; and in the struggle to work it we had to give and take – to withdraw a man here, and send him there, so that, if possible, something approaching to a competent provision might be made for the wants of the adhering population.”484
What aggravated the difficulty was the unequal distribution of the ministers who went out. There was one Presbytery – that of Tongue, in Sutherlandshire – in which not a single parish minister remained in the Establishment. There were other Presbyteries – one, for example, in the Synod of Aberdeen – where not a single minister came out. More frequently, two or three men found themselves burdened with the charge of the parishes of a whole Presbytery or county. Even where the number was greatest, the people who had followed them out naturally claimed a right to their services. The supply of preachers, on the other hand, was utterly inadequate to the demand. In the Synod of Moray there were twelve new congregations demanding supply, but only seven preachers could be sent. In that of Aberdeen there were forty additional congregations, but there were only twenty-five preachers to keep up the services; and in other districts there was a similar deficiency. And what, then, was to be done’ Men could not sit still; the fields were white to the harvest. Here was one reward, which had been longed for amid the battling of the Ten Years’ Conflict. A great door and effectual was opened up. Cost what it might, the golden opportunity must not fail to be turned to account; and ministers threw themselves into the work, little caring how it might affect life or health. The result was, that the struggle to supply ordinances under such difficulties entailed an amount of exertion which, though little thought of at the moment, sent many a man off the field with shattered health, and consigned others to an untimely grave.
To show the eagerness with which Gospel preaching was welcomed, we may refer to the West of Argyllshire, one of the districts scantily supplied by the Free Church. It was visited by Dr. Begg, who says: “We crossed from Tobermory to the district of Ardnamurchan at a point called Laga. … It was mid-day, but the people had nevertheless assembled to hear sermon, some of them having walked fifteen miles. I there saw, for the first time, what I had often read of before – a light burning on the hill as we advanced to the place, and, on inquiry, was told that it was to intimate to the people on the opposite side that there was to be sermon; and I saw the boats coming from the opposite shore with people to attend the service. Here was the fiery cross, that used to bring out the Celts to war, now used to bring them out to hear the Gospel of peace. Mr. Stewart, of Cromar, whom we left behind, as we were forced to press on towards Strontian, began the services of the day; and we heard the solemn sound of the psalmody die away in the distant hills.
“We went to Strontian, where public worship was to take place, and as no previous intimation had been given, it was necessary that means should be taken for summoning the people. As we sailed along the shore, I was much struck with the primitive way in which the intimation was made. A catechist was seated in the boat, and as she brushed along the shore, he cried out in Gaelic, ‘Sermon at six o’clock.’ This flew from hamlet to hamlet, and a large audience, when the worship commenced, was assembled on the hill. I could not, of course, understand the Gaelic sermon preached by Mr. Maclean, of Tobermory; but one thing I could not fail to observe, that the Spirit of the living God seemed to accompany the Word with Divine power. Not only did the people hang on the lips of the speaker, but they exhibited the deepest emotion. The audience was dissolved in tears, and deep sobs were heard throughout. It was a calm and lovely evening, … and I cannot tell how I felt when I stood in that neighbourhood where the Spirit of God seemed to be at work. … I shortly spoke to the people, and a venerable patriarch afterwards came forward, and made an address to me in his native tongue, shedding tears as he spoke. That address was interpreted, and the meaning of it was, that he blessed God that he had lived to see the day when the Church of Scotland was taking so deep an interest in her scattered children, and sending men to witness the trials to which they were subjected, with a prayer that all blessings might descend upon the Church and upon us.”485
Another who went for a time to labour in the same county – Mr. Campbell, of Berriedale, in Caithness – states his experience: “During the winter and spring of 1843, the work was very heavy, for the excitement caused by the Disruption – the hunger and thirst of the people for hearing the Word – was very great. They were not satisfied with hearing on the Sabbath; we required to preach to them on week-days also, not only in the open air during the day, but at night also in private houses. In the Island of Islay I preached forty times in two weeks. Their earnestness was the same everywhere, and the opportunity of preaching the Word was remarkable during the whole of that year.”486
This state of mind was by no means confined to the Highlands. At Glasgow, Dr. Lorimer states: “On looking back, I often feel that I could not go through the same service again. I am disposed to wonder how I succeeded, and by this very feeling am reminded that it was not in my own strength – that a gracious Sustainer was standing unseen behind.”487
Of Mr. Buchan, of Hamilton, it is stated: “At the memorable Disruption he left the Established Church, carrying along with him a large and influential congregation. Nearly another generation has risen up since then, and it is now little known what prodigious efforts he put forth in organising the Free Church within the bounds of his Presbytery. From all sides requests were made to him, and deputations waited on him, that he should take the charge of the congregation in their new and unwonted circumstances – people, elders, precentor, beadle, having seceded, and the sacramental season being near – that he should come and preside on the occasion, and take the superintendence of their affairs. To such appeals he could not lend a deaf ear, … and many of the most flourishing congregations within the bounds regard him as their father.”488
Mr. Martin, of Bathgate, is said, at the time of the Disruption, and for several years after it, to have had “a very great amount of labour and anxiety thrown upon him. As clerk to the Presbytery, he had to direct, in a great measure, all the business arrangements connected with the congregations in the district.” “Linlithgow, Broxburn, Bo’ness, &c., were all witness to his self-denying exertions in their behalf.” As if this were not enough, in the summer of 1844 he undertook deputation-work within the bounds of the Presbyteries of Stranraer and Wigtown. “I left home,” he says, “on Thursday, the 16th, reached Stranraer about eight the same evening. … In thirteen days I delivered twenty-one addresses or sermons, most of them pretty long; was altogether seventeen days away – travelled very considerably above 400 miles, and at an expense under £3, 3s. I was very jaded when I returned.” “It was commonly said of him at that time, ‘Mr. Martin is killing himself; he is doing the work of three men.'”489 He died at Bathgate, on the 15th of May, 1850, at the age of 48 years.
Even those ministers who were far advanced in life seemed to shake off the burden of years. Dr. Landsborough “had charge of Kilwinning, Stevenston, Saltcoats, and Ardrossan. Every Sabbath he preached three times, and on several occasions he even preached four times. On one occasion, in addition to preaching four times on a Sabbath, he had a short service in a private house, where he baptised a child, whose father was at sea. … Dr. Landsborough, although near the close of his sixty-fourth year, showed a strength and endurance – a freedom and power – far exceeding that of any former period of his life. Weary he might be in his work, but never weary of it. The congregations also were wonderfully large, and the ears of the people were open to hear. … They listened as – with the exception of the time of revival – they never had done before.”490
In the same way at Ruthwell, “Dr. Duncan felt glad that he was now at liberty to carry the message of peace over borders which had long been to him painfully impassable. Though in his seventieth year, he went every alternate Sabbath evening along the shores of the Solway during summer to preach in the open air to about 200 people in Caerlaverock parish. In Mousewald and Dalton also he had preaching stations, and in each of these parishes we got Sabbath schools placed.” “Sure I am that his energy was never greater; his youth seemed to be renewed – his labours were more abundant – and when he returned late and cold from distant prayer-meetings during that severe winter (1844-45) in the little open gig, he would not allow us to express any concern as if he were exerting himself beyond his strength.”491
There are some of the narratives, however, which deserve to be given at greater length. The first is by Mr. M’Leod, of Maryborough, afterwards of Lochbroom.
“Of the increase of labour brought on by the Disruption, in supplying the adhering population in those parishes and districts where the ministers remained in the Establishment, Mr. M’Leod had a large share. During the following months of this summer, and the harvest season of 1843, besides having the charge of two congregations in his own Presbytery, he frequently responded to the almost daily calls from other parts of the country for assistance at the administration of the Lord’s Supper; for help and encouragement to the adherents of the Church, specially where the cause was much opposed.
“With other places, he visited Lochaber, and assisted at the memorable communion at Kilmalie, when the congregation worshipped on the sea-shore below flood-mark, under circumstances which, with other incidents of the times, no doubt will be detailed by the much-respected Free Church minister of that congregation.
“After the solemn occasion in this parish was over, and spending some days lecturing in that wide and wild country, where attempts were made in some localities to prevent the adherents of the Free Church meeting at all, even in the open air, he visited, by special appointment of the Home Mission Committee, Badenoch and Strathspey for the first time, and followed up arrangements made by the late Mr. Shepherd, of Kingussie, who was the only minister along the line of the [Upper] Spey who had left the Establishment.
“By holding meetings in eight of the parishes of that extensive country, where the people, till then, had continued to give such careless attendance as they were in the habit of giving at the parish church, a very general interest was awakened in the cause and principles of the Free Church. One meeting at least was held in one or other of these parishes daily; and the only Sabbath he had at this time in the country, he met the people on the well-known knowe of Tullochgorum, a central point, where, it was stated in the local papers of the time, upwards of 4000 assembled. …
“After being some days with the congregations under his charge, and meeting several urgent engagements, he was asked to visit Lochbroom, on the west coast. On the 29th of September, he crossed the Dithreabh Mór, for the first time, on a very dark night of heavy rain, when, under Providence, he owed much of his safety to the sagacity of an old Highland pony, which had been sent to meet him, and was so well acquainted with the hills, burns, and rivers. When his guide and himself failed to make out the path, this sure-footed animal kept its way till after crossing the river Broom, which was greatly flooded, it arrived at the old manse of Lochbroom, where the widow of the late Dr. Ross was still residing. …
“Mr. M’Leod preached at Ullapool on the first Sabbath of October, in the open air, and also on Monday, and lectured on the Church question. The extent and physical difficulties of the parish seemed not to interfere with the attendance, for the whole adult population, with few exceptions, indeed, attended – from two to three thousand people. Although it was thought that Monday should have ended the service here, he was obliged to officiate on Tuesday and Wednesday, the people from the distant districts remaining without a break.
“During the days of this sojourn, it was very manifest that the impressions were very favourable, both as regarded the spiritual interests of the people, and their views of the principles and position of the Free Church. The weeping aloud of several, the abundant tears of many more, the solemn and fixed attention of all, clearly indicated the depth of their feelings.”
Mr. M’Leod closes his notes of these and other similar journeys with the significant statement: “In his labours in the West Highlands alone, during the last twenty-one years, he has travelled upwards of 9000 miles in open boats.”492
And what the hardships of these journeys often were may be learned from the narrative of his friend, Mr. Sinclair, of Plockton: “The work to be done was almost gigantic. Only a man of Mr. M’Leod’s well-knit, stalwart frame, and vigorous, elastic constitution, could have stood for any time the labours he went through, and which many friends in the south would consider incredible. For instance, we have known Mr. M’Leod, in returning home after preaching at one of the more remote stations of his charge, forced by stress of weather to pass the night on a bare, insular, uninhabited rock of the sea, on a rainy October night, with little food, without fire, no better shelter than the ‘oilskins’ of his crew, and no better mattress than their jackets, which the brave, loving fellows could ill afford to want. We have accompanied him in his good boat on a Sabbath morning in the month of June, from his manse in Ullapool to one of his distant stations. The wind turned contrary, and it was 4 o’clock p.m., instead of 12 noon, when we arrived at the appointed place; the ‘dear people,’ as he himself invariably called them, patiently waiting our arrival, and as patiently waiting for two hours after that in the open air, till the services of the day were over. It was 10 o’clock at night ere we got back to Ullapool.”493
Not less remarkable is the statement by the Rev. Eric Findlater, of Lochearnhead: –
“As to my own personal privations, as it does not become me, so I am unwilling, to speak of them. I had youth and good health on my side, and, I trust, the approbation of a good conscience in the part I took. Suffice it to say, that during the year of the Disruption I was seldom three nights running, in the same bed; and I recollect of having made a calculation at this time of having travelled in my gig or on horseback about 1800 miles in about eighteen months; but you, who know how wide the districts were in which I had to officiate, will not be surprised at this. My chief regret in those days was, that I could not carry on anything like systematic study. When I now look back upon the variety of places in which I officiated, it looks more like romance than reality. Again and again on the bare hillside, in that winter of 1843-44, the Sabbath-days of which were unprecedentedly fine; often under the precarious shelter of a canvas tent; on one occasion at Durness it was rent from top to bottom by a squall in the middle of the service; at times in the shelter of a stone dyke; sometimes from a wooden tent or box; at other times in a cottage, having a fire in the centre and the people grouped round it; at other times in a gravel-pit. On one occasion in a cave in the island of Raasay, on another on a hill-top, again in a large barn, and once on board one of Her Majesty’s cruisers, with the Bible placed on the flag of Old England. But always in those years it was to large and attentive audiences.
“Some odd circumstances occurred. I remember my horse, in his love for the clover of the glebe at Durness, where he was bred, gave me the slip in Assynt, and travelled a distance of thirty miles before he was overtaken. I had to spend a whole winter evening in the same room in a public-house with an Established Church probationer; and I suppose both of us would have preferred any other society. I had to exchange civilities with factors who would avoid me as they would the plague, because they knew I was often engaged in drawing out petitions to the Duke for sites. I had to perform ordinances while wet to the skin, after riding perhaps fourteen miles, and having no possibility of changing my clothes. And I remember on two occasions how the same idea crossed me. One of these was on a cold night, in the house of a Gaelic schoolmaster; the curtains were but thin, and the window but poorly supplied with glass. The other was while eating oatcake and milk out of an iron spoon in a smith’s house in Mull, after preaching two sermons. There was a slate hung up on the wall with the honest man’s accounts jotted on it, and, among other items, one struck my fancy – viz., ‘To putting a ring in _____’s pig’s snout.’ I could not choose but think on both these occasions on the luxurious tables I had but a year previously been a guest at – the rich hangings, the gildings, plate, and company. Yet I believe I can say, without ostentation, that my sleep was as sound, and my enjoyment of my plain fare as great, on these occasions, as when reposing on down, or associating with nobility; and that I did not grudge the sacrifice.”494
But while youth and strength were able to withstand such pressure, there were numerous cases in which health suffered, and life itself was endangered. Dr. M’Gilvray, of Aberdeen, then of Glasgow, writes: – “During the last year of the struggle, and the first of the Disruption, he visited the counties of Argyll, Wigtown, and Perth, for the purpose of explaining the principles [of the Free Church], and was the means of securing the adhesion of great numbers to the cause. To some of the remotest of these places, such as Islay, Arran, and Kintyre, he travelled in the dead of winter, holding meetings every day at different points, exposed to all the hardships and discomforts peculiar to these bleak and stormy districts. Owing to the opposition of lairds and factors, the meetings were mostly held in the open air, sometimes on the public highway, and sometimes on the bare sea-beach; and more than once he had to address them with wet clothes drying on his back, and his feet sunk to the ankles in snow. …
“His congregation was one of the few which suffered no loss by the Disruption. … But the case was different with himself. In consequence of the heavy labours and self-denying sacrifices connected with the Disruption year, along with personal and family afflictions of no ordinary kind, his health became seriously impaired, and he was at last seized with an attack of fever, which proved nearly fatal. As he was slowly recovering from the state of prostration to which he was reduced at this period, he was asked by the Colonial Committee to go out as a deputy to Canada for six months; and hoping that the sea-voyage and change of climate might have some effect in restoring his exhausted energies, he accepted the appointment, and set out on his colonial mission in September, 1846.”495
So, also, it is said of Mr. Nairn, of Forgan, Fifeshire, that when the Disruption came he saw the path of duty clearly, and took it without hesitation. But the bodily fatigue and mental anxiety that he underwent at that period, in forming and fostering Free Church congregations in the parishes adjoining his own, so injured his health that he was obliged to resign his charge.496
Thus health and strength gave way, and in some instances life was sacrificed; but with all this there is usually little desire to dwell on these stories of toil, and exposure, and death. What can be more simple than an entry such as this’ – “Mr. Gordon, of Edderton, had to remove with his family to Tain, a distance of five miles, as no dwelling could be got in the parish. In 1846 his last illness was incurred by over-fatigue and exposure on his third preaching tour that year in the remote Highlands. He returned home on the 20th November, became ill on the 25th, and lingered on till August.”497
In terms similarly brief we are told that in the Presbytery of Stranraer five ministers, with a preacher (sometimes two), had to supply ten congregations. These duties “caused much exhaustion to all the ministers. To this may be ascribed the acceleration of the death of Mr. Lamb.”498
Much has been said, even by adversaries – in many cases, perhaps too much – of the money sacrifices of the Free Church, which bulked so largely in public view. If the full history of the toil and struggle of those years could be told, it would be seen that in many a home there were results beside which mere pecuniary loss was of small account. It was happy to work and contend in the cause of Christ; but the above extracts will show at what cost it was often done. “The Disruption was a necessity of conscience which the providence of the Church’s Head had made inevitable, and out of which He has in various ways brought unthought-of good. … Yet the excitement and labours, as well as the anxieties and hardships, consequent on the great change of circumstances, brought premature age on many of the most devoted ministers, cutting some of them off in the prime of life, and forcing others to remove from loved and loving flocks to lighter spheres of work.”499 Something, in short, of the martyr-spirit was needed to meet the difficulties of that time. Men had not only to spend, but to be spent, for Christ.
Trials of Ministers
Pressure of Private Appeals
Generous and Chivalrous Spirit
Suffering undergone in Country Charges
Solemn and Touching Scenes
In many a manse the anxieties of the weeks that preceded the Disruption formed by far the severest trial to which ministers were subjected. During previous controversies there had risen up a feeling of chivalrous devotedness to the cause of the Established Church, and nothing could exceed the reluctance with which men contemplated the abandonment of their position. But a still greater difficulty was the fear that only a mere handful of people would stand by them when the final step was taken. It was loudly proclaimed that Government had a healing measure in preparation; and as the decisive moment drew near, there appeared in some quarters ominous signs of a disposition to hang back, as if congregations were shrinking from the burden of ministerial support. In many parishes the prospects of the outgoing ministers were of the gloomiest kind.
“I am, perhaps, more faithless than some of my brethren,” says Mr. Martin, of Bathgate; “but I certainly expect much suffering in connection with our future position.”500
Mr. Walker, of Dysart, writes: “I remember a son of Mr. Proudfoot, of Culter, telling me that he was walking as a boy with his father, shortly before the Disruption, when they stopped to speak to a man by the roadside. The conversation turned upon what was coming, and young Proudfoot heard his father calmly say that he had no expectation of being able to remain with his congregation (an entirely rural one), and that his thoughts were directed to seeking employment in Canada, or in some office at home. The man remonstrated, and the talk then took the shape of discussing how much it might be possible for the minister and his large young family to live upon – the issue being, that Mr. Proudfoot thought that he might be able to remain if he could be secure of an income of £80 a-year. Culter is one of the prettiest parishes in the Upper Ward, and the manse is in one of its sweetest nooks. One can imagine, therefore, the greatness of the quiet pressure which was brought to bear upon its minister (himself a man of the Nathanael-Paterson type of mind) when he could calmly contemplate the surrender of so much of what made life attractive for him, and the burying himself during the remainder of his days in a counting-room.”
At Yester, Dr. Thomson, now of Paisley, describes the difficulties of his position. “The very paupers – old, helpless women – were threatened with the loss of their weekly allowance if they left the parish church; and a system of terrorism was employed by farmers and others against their workmen and servants. In all this Lord Tweeddale had no share, for he had been absent about a year in Madras as Governor. Still, there were those who wielded territorial influence in a way which, if he had known of it, he would have strongly repudiated and effectively prevented. Then, too many of the people clung to the hope that Parliament would yet pass a measure which might satisfy the Church; and others even expressed the wish that the ministers would remain at their posts.
“This made the prospect very dark, especially as even those who turned out to be the most staunch in their adherence to principle refrained from saying what they would do if the crisis came, and left their ministers in doubt. … All this was very depressing and discouraging to us, and our prospect not merely of future support, but of future usefulness, seemed dark.
“As an illustration of our state of feeling, I may mention the following incident. About a month or two before the Disruption, the late Principal Fairbairn, then minister of Salton, four miles distant from Yester, called at my manse. We had a long walk and conversation as to our future prospects. He asked me whether I thought that many of my people would come out. I said that I thought very few would – certainly not above fifty, but that if even fifty came out, I would remain as their minister; if not, I had made up my mind to emigrate to America. I then asked him if many of the Salton people were likely to come out. He replied that the patron had told the congregation that if he came out they should have the choice of a successor, and the hostile influence was so strong that he did not expect any at all. ‘The fact is,’ he added, ‘they will just say, when they see me leaving the manse, He was a good sort of man, Mr. Fairbairn; it’s a pity he gaed awa’.'”501
It was in the face of such prospects that men had to make up their minds. They must walk by faith – there was no alternative. They literally “went out, not knowing whither they went.” This was none the less true that the moment the decisive step had been taken the tide at once turned, and popular sympathy rapidly rose and flowed. After that conversation with Professor Fairbairn, Dr. Thomson goes on: “What was our surprise, when the Disruption actually occurred, to find that in his parish, out of a population of 800, he had an adherence of 600, and in my parish of 1050, there were 830 members and adherents of the Free Church. We never expected anything of the kind, and we could only say, The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”502
One thing not easily borne in some cases was the interference of friends who held opposite sentiments, and anxiously sought to prevent ministers from joining the Free Church. “I was exposed,” says Mr. Robertson, of Gartly, “to many temptations to remain in the Establishment from the remonstrances of worldly friends and relatives, who insisted that at my advanced years, and having such a numerous family, it would be anything but duty to expose myself to the privations I must endure, and bring my family to ruin. The patron of the parish, too, declined till the eleventh hour to listen to any applications made to him for the living, in the hope that I might be induced to change my mind, and accept a new presentation. I had a communication from a friend in London intimating this to me, and beseeching me, for the sake of my wife and family, to write the Duke of Richmond immediately, or allow him to apply for me, that he might present me anew to the living I had resigned.”503
So also at Errol, Dr. Grierson states: “The amount of personal attachment manifested to me on all hands was very gratifying, but on the part of many it showed itself rather by the preposterous though combined attempt to induce me to remain in the Establishment, than by anything like a readiness to follow me out of it.”504
Mr. Grant, of Ayr, was appealed to in a different way. “After the Disruption took place, the clerk of the Established Presbytery of Ayr wrote me a formal letter, to the effect that the Presbytery had heard that I had signed the Deed of Demission, and joined the Free Church, and intimating that unless I appeared at next meeting of Presbytery my name would be deleted from the roll of ministers. A few days later, the clerk, an old and respected minister of the Moderate school, and a man of very genial and kindly disposition, ran across the street, grasped my hand, and apologised for sending me that letter, on the ground that he was obliged to do so in his official capacity. I assured him that I had understood it so, and had no occasion to be offended. ‘But,’ said he, ‘you will come back, and withdraw your name, and it will be all right again.’ I told him I would not do so. I still remember the strange feelings with which I heard the old man urge me to withdraw from my position, saying, ‘It is all very well for Drs. Chalmers, Candlish, &c., to hold to their position. They have publicly committed themselves, but you have not.’ I looked at the old man with amazement, but seeing the real kindliness of his eye, I could not find it in my heart to utter the words that were in my mouth – Is there, then, no such thing as religious principle'”505
When Dr. Duncan, of Ruthwell, went to attend the Assembly in 1843, he was followed to Edinburgh by a petition which evidently gave him some annoyance. The parishioners thought “that, as he had been presented by a patron, their call on him thus to remain would turn his, at least, into a popular settlement. It was believed to be urged on under the influence of a neighbouring minister, who having turned back himself would have been glad of countenance. … The reply was rather brief, expressing surprise and disappointment that, after all his efforts to enlighten them, they should not see that not only his duty but theirs was to quit the Establishment, which secular legal encroachment had made no longer the Church of our fathers.” “It is well meant,” he himself says in referring to it, “although very injudicious, and I am sorry to see that there are so many who have so little apprehension of the real merits of the question or of the position which I have conscientiously taken up.”506
The pressure of private appeals was still harder to bear. Only let the reader conceive the feelings with which such a letter as this was read in a far-off country manse, coming as it did from one who held a prominent place in the legal and political circles of Edinburgh: “I now once more, ere it be too late, address you on the painful subject of this, in my humble opinion, most inconsiderate and fatal step which you are about to take, to the ruin of my sister and your children.” The writer then goes into an argument, strongly expressed, and, from his own point of view, well put, against Free Church principles: “You know my opinion of the leaders, … and to what extent pious men have been made dupes of. The prospects of the secession with respect to pecuniary matters, I also know, are delusive; and whatever a few of the popular preachers, as they are called, may make of it in towns, you and other quiet country clergymen will be very soon thrown overboard. I therefore implore you to have done with this. I write all this in very sincere sympathy for your wife and children, whom I think you are, without honest cause, deserting and leaving to certain ruin. … If my poor father and mother had been alive, you may figure what they would have felt on seeing their daughter, who was always accustomed to ease and competency, thus thrown adrift on the wide world, with a large family and the burden of increasing years. I cannot bear to think of it, or bring my mind to believe it. But I can only conclude by saying that if I thought your course was honourable in pursuing the phantom of independence, I would not ask you to desert it, even with the fatal consequences which must ensue, and the extent of which it is impossible to foresee.” Quietly and calmly, in the face of this, the path of duty was followed; and to the praise of God’s goodness it should be told that to the upright there arose light in darkness, and that the blessing which follows the seed of the righteous has not been withheld.
That diminished incomes should lead to many privations was only what men had looked for. In the nature of things it could not otherwise be. They had counted the cost. There now lies before us a pale note, written in pencil in Tanfield Hall on the 18th of May, posted after the Assembly broke up, and carefully treasured for these thirty years by her who received it. “My own beloved and disinherited wife,” it begins, “the deed has been done! We are now sitting in the hall of our new Assembly, with feelings of the deepest solemnity, and yet holy joy and unutterable peace;” and so the sentences run on, traced by one who took a prominent part in the discussions of that day. Disinherited, indeed, they felt themselves to be, – except that they had respect to the better inheritance.
It was natural at the same time, that anxious thoughts should rise in the new homes of ministers as the months went on, and it became a question where the support of wife and children was to be obtained. From Blairgowrie we have the following reference to the Glasgow Assembly: “We had been led to expect that by that time the ministers would have some idea of what their income from the Sustentation Fund might be; therefore, there was some little disappointment felt by those at home when, in the letters received from Mr. Macdonald, there were constant references to some scheme which he was planning for the building of schools, and providing for our outed teachers, but not a single word as to the provision to be made for the ministers’ wives and children. Just at this time a lady called – one of those kindly disposed friends who had remained in the Establishment. After talking about indifferent matters, she said, ‘Really, Mrs. Macdonald, your husband did very wrong in leaving the Church. He should have given it up. It is all very well to talk of making sacrifices, but when a man has a wife and family to provide for it will not do. You cannot keep a house, and servant, and child on nothing, and we hear that all you are to have is £40 a-year.’ Mrs. M.’s heart almost failed her as she saw in prospect the hard struggle that awaited them; but, concealing her feelings, she replied: ‘Well, my husband took the step in faith at the call of duty, and although it were again in his choice, he would just act as he has done. We are trusting in God for our supplies, and He that sent the ravens to feed Elijah can equally provide for us. We did it in faith, and will, without doubt, be cared for.’ There was not much agreement with these views, and soon after the lady left; and no time was allowed to pass till a letter was wending its way to Glasgow, saying: ‘You are always speaking about some scheme for raising money for schools, but you have never yet told us what is to be the dividend, and Mrs. _____ has been telling us that we are only to have £40 a-year. Be sure and write, for we cannot think how we shall manage on that.’ Next post brought the reply: ‘Let my good wife take courage. We are to have £40, not for the whole, but for the half-year; and He that hath provided this will give all else that is needed.”507
That the ministers of country charges were the greatest sufferers was obvious on all hands, and yet few things are more remarkable than the generous and chivalrous spirit in which those who had wealthy town congregations willingly took their share in the privations of their brethren. At St. George’s, Edinburgh, during the ministry of Dr. Candlish, the money raised for Church purposes reached, on an average, upwards of £7000 a-year. In 1843 the Deacons’ Court resolved to make the annual income of their minister £400 – their opinion being, that for a man placed as Dr. Candlish was, with many demands on his hospitality and otherwise, a stipend of £400 a-year was a very moderate and reasonable one. This Dr. Candlish declined, telling them that until time revealed what was in store for his brethren in the ministry throughout the Church, he would accept only £300 a-year, without a house, as minister of St. George’s.508
At Greenock, the stipend of Dr. M’Farlan was £780 – said to be the largest at that time in the Established Church. It had been cheerfully resigned, and after the Disruption, his income – without a house – averaged £317; involving an annual sacrifice of £463.
In Glasgow, the incomes of the ministers had all along been barely adequate, and after the Disruption, therefore, the change was the more felt. Dr. Lorimer states that in his case “his stipend was much short of what it used to be – hitherto  the diminution has been from £150 to £160 a-year.”509
If it was thus in towns, there were greater privations which had to be submitted to in the country. At Errol, Dr. Grierson says: “In reference to temporal emoluments, I have to observe that the amount now is not one-half of what it was formerly.”510
Of Mr. Dickie, of Dunlop, it is stated that “at the Disruption he saw no prospect before him but to quit the scene of his ministry altogether, from the scantiness of the population. Yet never for one moment did he hesitate. No one cast in his lot more cheerfully, and few surrendered more than he – for taking the difference of his former and after stipend, he sacrificed not less than £150 a-year for the cause; and if the sum be reckoned up for the twenty years that have followed, it gives £3000 as the contribution of one man. Yet no one ever heard him complain, and never did one feeling of regret take possession of his mind.”511
How such a change of circumstances affected ministers and their families may be shown by a few examples. In the Establishment, Dr. Landsborough’s stipend had averaged above £350, including manse and glebe – being higher than three-fourths of the parishes in Ayrshire. “The first year after the Disruption it was £105 without a house, and for several years it did not average more than £120, though still he had no manse. Previously he had derived about £100 from private means, which of late had been gradually reduced to little more than half. … For long he had made it a rule to give away £50 yearly – thus dedicating to the Lord an eighth part of his income. Now he gave in the same proportion as before, though he could not give to the same amount.”… “One of the two valued domestics, who had been long in his service, must be parted with. The pony and cow must be sold!“512
Dr. Duncan, of Ruthwell, had been accustomed to a phaeton for himself and family. He at once gave it up, and, at seventy years of age, prepared to do the work of his parish on foot. The gift of a low gig, exempt from taxation, presented to him by his brother, in part relieved him.513
That the privations which such straitened circumstances involved must often have been severely felt is obvious, and there is no pretence of indifference to such trials on the part of ministers. One thing was especially painful – the impossibility of obtaining for the children of the manse the education which their parents would fain have given them. Of these things little is said in most of the Mss., but Mr. Robertson, of Gartly, expresses what many others must have experienced: “My altered circumstances prevent me from educating my children as I would wish, and deprive me in my old age of many comforts which I enjoyed when a younger man, and expose my family to privations which, I trust in the Lord’s sovereign hand, will prove blessings in disguise. … By the Lord’s goodness, my state of health since the Disruption has been, upon the whole, better than for many years before, though for some months past , owing to my labouring somewhat above my strength during the summer and autumn months, my want of means for keeping a horse, and other causes, I have felt my strength much exhausted.”514
Apart, however, from pecuniary loss, there were other circumstances which were hard to bear. Sometimes the trial came in the form of contemptuous treatment, in quarters where ministers had been accustomed to receive consideration and respect. “I was exposed to many indignities,” Mr. Dodds, of Humbie, states, “from many quarters.” The particulars he refrains from giving, but Dr. Grierson, of Errol, one of those ministers whose years and standing entitled him to the highest regard, goes more into detail. “I am sensible that I have incurred the loss of a considerable share of social respect and influence, especially among the wealthiest classes in the community. … In one instance I have been explicitly and absolutely refused admittance under the roof of one of the principal families, whom I have frequently visited in affliction, although my known and acknowledged object was to meet with one or two of the servants who belonged to my congregation, and to whom it was my duty to pay a ministerial visit.”515
Sometimes the gentlest natures were subjected to the rudest treatment. No minister in the Church was more conspicuous than Dr. Landsborough for the inoffensiveness and meekness of the Christian character. Yet he must take his share of the indignities which at that time were common. “He was one day seen scanning the houses in Saltcoats more carefully than usual. A well-known gentleman accosts. ‘Mr. L., you seem to be looking about you more than is your wont.’ ‘Yes,’ was the reply; ‘I am looking for a house for myself and family.’ ‘Oh, in that case,’ said he, ‘I know one that will exactly suit you.’ ‘Where is it?’ asked Mr. L. ‘Bedlam,’ was the insulting answer, as the gentleman moved off.”516
Such expressions of hostile feeling were not always confined to words. At Aberdour, on the coast of Fife, they took tangible shape. “The congregation had to worship for a time in the open air, near the sea-side. They had difficulty in obtaining a site, in consequence of the opposition of the Earl of Moray’s commissioner, Mr. Ainslie, who prevailed with two proprietors not to grant ground, and bought a third piece to hinder the Free Church from getting it. Subsequently, after the church was built, and a manse for the minister was nearly completed, the same Mr. Ainslie caused a dead wall to be built of stone and lime close up to the manse, and as high as the top of the highest windows, thus darkening the house – the windows being chiefly on that side for the sake of the view – and rendering it uninhabitable till windows were opened on the other side. This wall, which obtained the soubriquet of ‘Claverhouse Tower,’ was removed by Mr. Ainslie’s successor. A lithograph of it was taken, and it gave occasion to ‘ane ballant‘”517.
But, leaving these details, let us take the experience of Mr. M’Lean at Kilmodan (Glendaruel), Argyllshire (subsequently of Callander), as showing the contrast between a minister’s position before and after the Disruption.
“When that now memorable event, the Disruption, began to cast its shadow before it, I was the happy pastor of a peaceful Highland parish. The population did not exceed a hundred families, sweetly located along the sides of a valley – all, with a single exception, firmly attached to the Church of their fathers, and all so easy of access that a few days of active visitation could overtake the whole. Grouped prominently together, in this pleasant field of ministerial labour, are seen the manse with its garden, and the Church with its grave-yard. On every side, hills rise abruptly to a considerable height; while above, the blue vault seems to rest all round on their summits, and to roof in the whole scene. ‘Faultless is the glen, but for the difficulty of getting in and out,’ says an old Gaelic proverb of the place; and though the perfect roads and bridges of modern times have removed the implied complaint of the rough passes, and even changed them into the chief beauties of the district, the old proverb graphically pictures the ruling feature still – peculiarly isolated and lovely seclusion. A slow stream, well-known to the lovers of ‘old Isaak’s’ craft, winds in silvery links along the plain; at first through fragrant meadows and fertile fields, then, seeking through a narrow outlet the shade of rich woodland, it wanders, ‘at its own sweet will,’ round fairy knolls clothed with lovely copse, or by giant crags crested with sombre pines, till at last it issues into light only to lose itself for ever in a little arm of the sea – one of those exquisite recesses between woods and streams and heathery precipices, which add such a charm to our western shores. Across the entrance to this lake, and securing a calm within, stretches a noble breakwater of rocky islets, one of which, the innermost, crowned with the ruins of a castle, possesses not only, like the rest, the charm of picturesque beauty, but the romantic interest of old historic association. It was alongside of it that, trusting to the intricacy of the rocky labyrinth which the king’s frigates would have to thread before they could reach him, the noble patriot Argyle moored his little squadron, in that unfortunately premature expedition, which, had it been as successful as it was disastrous, would have spared our country the worst of our ‘killing time,’ saved from a bloody death many of her noblest and best, and anticipated by some years the blessings of the glorious Revolution.
“Such were the external attractions of this quiet retreat, while, not less peaceful, and still more endearing, were the relations between pastor and people, from the highest to the humblest. And in these circumstances, so pleasing to my tastes, suited to my capacity, and satisfactory to my ambition, with a numerous family besides, all of us literally dependent on the benefice as our sole means of support, to imperil all, hastily or on light grounds (as we are sometimes accused of having done), to sacrifice it from any motive short of the inexorable constraint of conscience, would have been a folly, a sin, and a shame.
“Such a constraint did, in the sovereign providence of God, unmistakably come. And if in ordinary circumstances and peaceful times my position was so eminently desirable, as I have described it, it was certainly about the very last one would have chosen for the conflict in which we were now to engage. In a parish leavened with ‘Moderatism’ from time immemorial, not a village, not a feu even, within its bounds, and the whole resident influence decidedly hostile – such was the field on which we stood forth at the stern call of duty, set up the banner God had given us, and displayed it, ‘because of the truth.’
“In these circumstances, I spared no pains from the first in publicly plying the people with week-day lectures on the great question at issue; but I could never bring myself to deal privately and personally with them, never asking even my elders what part they purposed to take in the approaching Disruption. … And so it was, that even so late in the day as the ‘Convocation,’ I did not know, on going to that meeting, of a single individual prepared to take the step to which I then pledged myself. The lowest ebb, however, was the turning point of the tide; and it flowed from that time forward. It was known what I had done, and it was not doubted that I would redeem my pledge. On my return home, a written assurance was sent me from all my elders – six in number, and none of them appointed during my incumbency – that, come what might, the session would remain unbroken. The great mass of the people, too, adhered, their understandings and their hearts owning the identity of the principles expounded to them with those embodied in our Standards, and inseparably interwoven with the eventful history of our Church. All now gave good promise that, under God’s blessing, these principles had taken deep root in the land.”
Referring to the severe treatment to which he and his people were exposed, Mr. M’Lean supposes that a question may arise, whether it was “not provoked on our part by indiscretion or violence. Such is always the persecutor’s apology. But it was not so. For the people, I can testify there are none more peaceably disposed anywhere, or more deferential to their superiors in all things lawful. And for myself, I will call a witness whose testimony here is conclusive. The gentleman, whom I may call the author and manager of the persecution in the Glen, the proprietor of more than one-half of the parish, called on me on the eve of the Disruption, and asked me, seemingly much affected, if there was no alternative, but that I must ‘go out.’ Nothing, he said, had ever so grieved him as the thought that such might be the case. He was on all sides congratulated on its being a model parish, educationally, as well as otherwise, under my auspices, and he had hoped for himself and his children long to enjoy the blessing of my ministry. He was pleased to say so, and much more which I will not repeat. But, finding that he had failed in the main object of his visit, he forgot all this; and from that day forth he exerted himself to the very utmost when we became houseless to keep us so, and have us exterminated altogether as a nuisance from the district. Even on his own showing, however, he could ‘find no occasion against us, except concerning the law of our God.’ …
“I pass on to the period of the Disruption in which I had the honour of bearing my humble part as a member of Assembly. So confident was I of that event being inevitable, that, notwithstanding all the arts of those ‘lying in wait to deceive,’ I had, before leaving home, sold off all the stock and implements of a valuable glebe; and now, on my return, with those things out of the way, we at once set about packing furniture and preparing for instant removal. We had just finished our heavy task by Saturday evening. On Sabbath the church was to be preached vacant, while I was to address my flock on the green in front of the manse. On Monday morning we were to bid a final farewell to the sweet spot, and proceed to a temporary home, mercifully opened to us in a neighbouring parish, when unexpectedly (at this hour) a deputation of the heritors was announced. They found me pondering all these things in a dismantled apartment, and amid the heart-sickening desolations of an uprooted home. Without one softening word of sympathy, to their object they went hard and straight. And it was this – that either I should not preach at all on the morrow, or go away somewhere out of sight and hearing, lest I should disturb the feelings of the reverend gentleman who was to preach in the church and declare it vacant! This modest request, though little careful of my feelings, was certainly most considerately tender towards his. He had inducted me to the charge, introduced me to the congregation, held our principles all along till he must needs suffer for them, solemnly pledged himself to them at the Assembly of 1842, and at the Convocation of the same year; and now, having deserted the cause, he was the man whom its enemies delighted to honour in dealing the coup de grace to an old friend!
“Many a solemn and touching scene did those trying times make us acquainted with. I am not sure, however, but that the Sabbath meeting on the green was the most trying of all in my experience. Not only did most trying circumstances, inseparable from such a meeting, concur to impart to it a deep and painful interest, but special care was taken to produce the impression among the people that, if I ventured to preach, measures were all ready and constables at hand for my forcible removal. More than this, a most friendly note from a nonresident heritor was handed to me at the eleventh hour, advising me, for my own sake, to yield the point, as he understood they were fully resolved to proceed to extremities. Reluctantly declining the kind counsel, however, and entirely disregarding the threats, I felt it to be my duty to take my stand there; and there, accordingly, in the presence of my persecutors, who kept walking round about us, speaking loudly within earshot, and with significant looks, I conducted public worship, with such emotions as I may never feel again; while my poor flock, apprehensive every moment of what might happen, sat closer and closer together, like a fluttered covey when the hawk sails overhead. Further than this, however, we were not disturbed on this occasion, an interdict not having been obtained – just as I had calculated upon – till the vacancy was declared.
“I shall not dwell on our ‘quitting the manse.’ Monday came, with all the dreary accompaniments of such a ‘flitting’ as ours. Nearly twenty carts mustered on that morning – not all actually needed, perhaps, but not the less tokens of their owners’ sympathy and respect. In silence and with subdued air, like men on solemn and affecting duty, each took his allotted share of the disjecta membra of our home, and formed into line. Our six children, the oldest just eight, wondering what the doing of the day might mean, took their places in the rear; and all things being now ready, we quenched our hearth, took a last look through the deserted apartments, sounding strange to us already with their ‘echo and their empty tread,’ and, having turned the key in the door of our once happy but now desolate dwelling, slowly and sadly the long procession moved on. Immediately, by the hands of a messenger-at-arms, a farewell shot was fired after us in the shape of a very formidable interdict, which, fortunately for me, would not, as I have said, go off till after the Sabbath. Another discharge soon followed from a reverend doctor, the clerk of Synod, in the form of a summons for some five days’ rent, which time, he alleged, though incorrectly, we had tarried in the manse beyond the legal period. I notice these as specimens of the sharp practice to which we were exposed from more quarters than one.
“In recording this succession of depressing experiences, it would be deep ingratitude to forget the many mercies and tokens for good from our Heavenly Father, by which, these were alleviated. ‘He stayeth the rough wind in the day of His east wind.’ It was an unspeakable blessing to be sustained and cheered, instead of being weakened and hindered, as it might have been, by her on whom a full share of the heavy burden fell, and of whom I will say no more – less I scarcely could say – than that throughout, whether in doing or suffering, it was nobly suffered and nobly done. Streaks of light, too, in God’s good time, began to appear in the horizon, giving hopeful promise that the darkest hour was past. Shortly previous to the crisis, with no prospect of accommodation in the district for my family, I fully expected to be separated from them by a long distance and for a considerable time, when, unsolicited, a farm-house, providentially vacant for a season, was placed at my disposal by a noble-minded benefactor of the cause. More than that, he gave me not only a house, but a church also, which he had built for his tenantry in that neighbourhood; and they welcomed me to be their pastor with a cordial call. Nor was this all. In the Glen, which still engaged my chief interest, a suitable site was obtained, and steps taken for the erection of a church. An elder of mine possessed a small property, completely surrounded by wide territories, on which we dared not have set foot for God’s worship, no, not even on their lone heathery fells; and there, in a spot suggestive of the sweet description of the Psalmist, ‘We found a place for the Lord, we found it in the fields of the wood.’ There, till we could ‘go into His tabernacles,’ we worshipped on His footstool, the green earth, heaven alone our canopy, and He whose throne it is, our glory and defence. These my two congregations being ten miles apart, and it being desirable, for a time at least, that they should have regular supply, in Gaelic and English, I travelled twenty miles and preached four sermons every Sabbath for two summers. My hearers had increased in numbers, instead of being diminished, by the Disruption; while a mere handful was left in both parishes in connection with the now Erastianised Establishment.”518
Of the spirit in which such changes were accepted by many, we give an example in the case of Dr. Duncan, of Ruthwell. Through life he had laboured on behalf of his parishioners, both for their temporal and spiritual welfare; and after the Disruption his desire was to maintain the old kindly relations, even with those who refused to follow him. “As time rolled on,” says Mrs. Duncan, “the necessities of some of those who had been most angry against him led them to seek help from their old friend. It was curious to observe that if there was any change in his demeanour at all, it was visible in an increased desire to do them service. One small incident, a type of what I mean, will explain the whole.
“A family was bereaved of a little one. Whether there being no parish minister, it would not be decent not to have one at all, or whether some better feeling dictated the act, I know not; but in spite of many unkind motives imputed to the ministers who had demitted, and such sayings as we have all heard of, the father asked Dr. Duncan to attend the funeral. His prayer was so full of love for those who had divided from his ministry, that some of the women, unable to contain themselves, rushed out of the house, and wept it out together with their Free friends. The day was hot, and the churchyard at some distance. Dr. Duncan offered to place the remains of the child in his small gig, and after some difficulty about the adjustment, he walked while they took their way to the grave. So simple an act was this with him that he did not recollect to mention it, though he came straight from the scene to carry me home from visiting a widow to whom I had walked in the morning. Nor did I hear of it till some days after, when I found the village still in a stir about it. Even the bond Church wives who thought he should not have been invited, and the Free Church wives who thought he should not have accepted the invitation, were at least agreed in this, that their old friend was their old friend still, and bore the same Christian heart to them all.”
But if such were the sentiments of the parishioners, it was otherwise with the “parochial authorities.” In one respect they had the power of wounding the old pastor, and they did not fail to use it. “One thing really vexed him, and only one, of all that he resigned. Nearly thirty years before he had opened the first bank for savings in the world. It was constructed so as annually to form what he called a surplus fund, from which a secretary and treasurer might have been paid; but as he did all gratuitously the fund accumulated, and in course of years, by the vote of the governors, he was permitted to employ the fund in erecting a school and teacher’s dwelling at Locharwoods, four miles from the parish school. It had been used for years as a Sabbath school and preaching station.” These services he was anxious to continue, and it was evidently with some surprise that he heard of a proposal for his being excluded. “An attempt is made to shut us out of the school-house built by me out of the surplus funds of the savings bank.” He wrote at once to remonstrate. “My dear Sir, – Allow me to say that my having, from conscientious motives, thrown up the emoluments of the Established Church, does not, in my opinion, materially alter my duty in this respect. … I did flatter myself that if there was a place in the parish to which I should be cheerfully welcomed by all classes, it would be this school-house – a building planned by my regard to the best interests of the district, and erected, I may say, at my own expense. … My wish is to hold prayer meetings occasionally for the religious edification of those who choose to attend. … This, one would think, is a small boon, but it is one on which I place a high value. I am sure you cannot wonder if I should think it hard were my own door to be shut in my face.”
The appeal was in vain. The place was seized, and its door closed against Dr. Duncan, who, by that means, “passed it unemployed each Sabbath evening, when he went to preach in Caerlaverock parish.” There was a trifling circumstance which should perhaps be mentioned, as giving completeness to the narrative. A neatly carved stone had been put up over the entrance, narrating the history of the erection, but after Dr. Duncan’s exclusion, “the tablet was torn down.“519
But now, after the Disruption had come and gone, and trials began to accumulate, was there no repining among the ministers of the Free Church’ The excitement of the conflict was over, and the pressure of privation was felt in their families – the pony could no longer be kept, the cow was sold, the old servants were parted with, the favour of heritors was lost or turned to bitterness, the whole worldly position was changed. And was there in the midst of all this no regret for the step they had taken’ In the calm retrospect of the past, did the wish never arise that they had the power to undo what they had done’
If one gave heed to what was said all over Scotland in worldly circles, there could be no doubt as to how such questions should be answered. Before the Disruption, the opponents of the Church had been quite sure that few or none of the ministers would go out; and now after the Disruption they were just as sure that they would fain get back if they could. It was most natural for such men to think so. They were merely judging others by themselves, and to a great extent they lacked the means of measuring the power of Divine truth over the human conscience.
In referring to such matters, the common people – as is their wont – used great plainness of speech. In the parish of Edzell, Mr. Inglis tells how “James Moir, at Inchbare, a blacksmith, was talking in his smithy with some persons who had not left the Established Church. They, thinking to annoy James, said to him, ‘Oh, ye’re a’ just like Lot’s wife – ye’re lookin’ back again to Sodom.’ James very unexpectedly turned the laugh against themselves by saying, ‘No doubt it was ill wi’ her for lookin’ back; but it was as ill, if no waur, wi’ them that didna come out ava.'”520
But though it was no use trying to annoy the blacksmith, there were others who could be made to feeL Mrs. Duncan tells of a time when she met Mr. Elliot, author of the “Horae Apocalypticae,”and found to her surprise how far the prejudices of a good man can sometimes carry him.
“It was with feelings of sorrow, surprise, and some degree of indignant shame that I heard the Apocalyptic interpreter, Mr. Elliot, assure me that not more than six of them came out from any cause but having gone too far to recede, and that all but about six would flock back into the Established Church were the way open. I am sure that, had he been aware that he was trampling on the feelings of a widow whose husband, with his two sons and two sons-in-law, had resigned their temporalities in one day, he is too humane to have done so. Yet I marvel much that a man entertaining Christian principle should judge so like the world with regard to mere matters of emolument, and I marvel more that a man who seeks to explain events veiled in prophetic vision cannot study, without the veil of prejudice, events and their causes which have occurred within a few miles of him, and amongst a people who speak his own tongue.”521
The truth is, that if ever there were men fully persuaded in their own minds, they were the ministers of the Free Church; and their homes were scenes of quiet contentment and happiness, which made itself felt by all who ever crossed their thresholds.
Before the Disruption, many of their manses were visited by a literary man from England, the well-known Christian poet, James Montgomery. He belonged to a different Church, his prepossessions were all unfavourable, and this is the account he gives – “Wherever I went I came in contact with those who have now seceded from the Church, and I found them under the influence of the spirit in which they have now acted, and which has brought about this great movement. I was received into their houses; I witnessed their family devotions, and the earnestness and simplicity with which they were regularly performed. I at that time knew little of the question, and from what I had heard I had been strongly prejudiced against them. But when I went among them and saw their spirit, my prejudices were removed, for I found them not only ready to be confessors but martyrs for their principles. They have witnessed a good confession. Nearly five hundred good men have gone out at the call of duty, like Abraham, not knowing whither they went. My whole heart goes with them.”522
Such was the impression made on a stranger before the Disruption, but not less emphatic were the testimonies borne after the event. If there were two men entitled above all others to speak on the subject, they were Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Macdonald, who, in the manse and school building tours, had gone familiarly among their brethren from end to end of Scotland, and this is the report which they gave: –
“I have had occasion,” says Dr. Guthrie, “to enter many of the cottages where our ministers are now living, and I say as an honest man that there never was a greater calumny than to allege that any of these men regret the step they have taken; but, … contented, and quiet, and happy as they are in their privations, there are many of them subsisting with their families on one-third of their former incomes.”523
Not less warmly did Dr. Macdonald speak in addressing the Assembly: “We have heard it publicly stated that there are many of our country brethren lamenting sadly that they gave so much when they gave up their all for Christ, and even that there is a large number anxious to return to the blessedness of keeping all, if they could only find a door open to receive them. Now, it has happened that I have been privileged to see more of them than any one in this Assembly – and that in no time of excitement, or when we were all assembled here, and felt cheered and supported in each other’s society – but in the retirement of their own houses; and I feel bound to say that I have seen them happier, I believe, than they ever were before” – (here the members of Assembly lent such a universal burst of corroboration to Mr. Macdonald’s statement, that his voice, though pitched in a high tone, was for some seconds inaudible) – “and so far from repenting that step, they never felt more satisfied that it was the step pointed out to them by God; and instead of longing to retrace it, they now feel thankful to God for giving them grace to take it. (Renewed plaudits).”524
But if it was thus that others spoke of them, we naturally turn to the Mss. to see what they say for themselves. At various times, as the years went on, their feelings are found recorded as they wrote them down in the quiet of their own homes; and the following extracts will serve to show what their experience really was: –
On the 1st of January, 1844, Dr. Landsborough writes: “God has spared me to enter upon a new year; and how changed my circumstances since the beginning of last year. For no event in my life am I so thankful as that the Lord gave me grace to be faithful in the day of trial, and enabled me to bear witness to the honour of the Head and King of the Church.”525
In similar terms Mr. Milroy speaks: “Yesterday was the anniversary of our leaving the manse at Crailing. In looking back, I have perfect satisfaction in that surrender in so blessed a cause; and I could not but feel how much cause of gratitude we have to our Heavenly Father, who has led us and fed us all along; who has sustained, and cheered, and blessed us amid circumstances of no ordinary discouragement.”526
Dr. Burns, of Kilsyth, was in the forty-sixth year of his ministry, and drawing near the end of life. Three years after the Disruption, it is pleasant to see the cheerful contentment with which he meets his altered circumstances. Referring to his privations, he says: “What are all these compared with the approbation of conscience and the peace of God keeping the heart, and the honour of taking a part in upholding the Crown Rights of his Lord'” “Much personal kindness has been experienced from a truly attached people. The want of a horse has no doubt been felt, but with staff in hand, and occasional cheerfully proffered aid of a pony or of a car from a kind neighbour, the old minister has got on wonderfully.”527
In 1853, Mr. Wallace, of Hawick, addressed his congregation: “Now that the turmoil of the conflict is over, and an interval of ten years has elapsed, it may be admitted that we now occupy a better position that we ever had before for entering upon a calm and dispassionate review of the momentous step we have taken. … To these days [the time of the Disruption] we now look back with a feeling of intensest interest. They are connected with sweet associations, and with the memory of many dear friends now gone to their everlasting rest. And though there might be some sacrifices made, and some privations endured, yet they were far more than counter-balanced by the kindliness of your feeling, and by the cordiality and earnestness with which you were accustomed to join in the ordinances of God’s house. We therefore number them among the happiest days of our life. They are fragrant with pleasant recollections. We look back upon them as upon times of revival and refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”528
In 1865, twenty-two years after the Disruption, Mr. Taylor, of Flisk, gives us another glimpse into the manse-life of Disruption ministers: “When I gave up my living in the Established Church, I never expected to receive an income exceeding £100. I had no thoughts of again occupying a manse. Yet have I been dwelling since 1844 in a pleasant manse, which for many years has been free of debt, and receiving an income of £138, raised, by the generous collection for pre-Disruption ministers, to £170. It is the doing of the Lord, and it is marvellous in our eyes.”…
“There is another mercy for which I daily give thanks to the Lord, and that is for fixing my lot in this beautiful locality, and giving me the quiet duties of a country pastorate. It is what Henri Lacordaire coveted – ‘I would bury myself in the depths of the country; I would live only for a little flock, and find all my joy in God and in the fields.’ … Often when I saunter on the knoll at the top of the garden, thinking out my Sabbath sermon; or when on a day of languor, which feeble health occasions, I walk here, yielding myself up to the fresh invigorating influences of nature; or when, in company with a friend, the social chat is interrupted to admire some opening in the varied view; or when on Sabbath evening I can refresh my thoughts with the air and calm of the silent fields, and with quiet meditation, I often feel, Can I be thankful enough to the Lord for a retreat so congenial'”529
These were the feelings of ministers, as expressed by themselves and described by others. Many worldly advantages once enjoyed had been given up, and yet they were happy. Christ has assured us that they who forsake houses and lands for His sake shall be recompensed an hundredfold even in this life. God’s blessing was surely sufficient to fill the heart with satisfaction and peace, and give such a relish for the mercies of life as might well sweeten a far harder lot than any which the ministers of the Free Church were called to encounter. The Apostles speak of having nothing, and yet it seemed as if they possessed all things. The reproach of Christ was once felt to be greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, and why should men not believe that something of this was once more experienced by those who had sought to follow their Divine Master in the face of trial and sacrifice. Under many a lowly roof they were dwelling beneath the shadow of the Almighty, and the sense of His love was the joy and the rejoicing of their hearts.
Peculiar tenderness belongs to the dying testimonies of certain fathers of the Church, who, after having long endured the burden and heat of the day, were drawing near the end of their course. In the beginning of the year 1846, Dr. Duncan was in Liverpool raising money for a manse, intended, not for himself, but for his colleague and successor at Ruthwell. He was within less than three weeks of his death, but a friend writes: “He was in excellent spirits the whole time, and seemed to participate in all that was going forward with great animation and pleasure, referring to old stories with much enjoyment and cheerfulness. I fear his life was shortened by over-exertion in the cause he espoused.” “This surmise was perhaps favoured by the lively pleasure with which he spoke of the state and prospects of the Free Church, and the interest which he manifested in its progress and prosperity. …
“On one of these occasions in which he was thus expatiating, bearing his testimony to the faithfulness of God in sustaining and comforting His faithful ministers and people, a friend who was present expressed the very common sentiment that the Free Church movement had been occasioned by passion more than principle, and appealed to Dr. Duncan whether, on a calm review of the past, he was not conscious of some regret. ‘Regret!’ he exclaimed, with deep feeling – ‘what have I to regret? Can a man regret having had grace to act up to his principles? No, God forbid. Were I placed in similar circumstances to-morrow, it would be my only happiness to do as I have done.'”530
Mr. Campbell, of Kiltearn, Ross-shire, “resigned one of the best livings in the Church at the call of duty, thereby incurring altogether a loss of some thousands of pounds for conscience’ sake.” He had large experience both of the sacrifices and hard labour of Disruption times. Referring to 1843, when engaged on deputation-work, he says: “In my absence my family removed from the manse to an old wreck of a house three miles from the church, which previously had been unoccupied for fifteen years. Notwithstanding considerable repairs made on the house at my own expense, it was most uncomfortable. Two of our domestics almost lost their lives in consequence of the desperate state of the house.” At a subsequent period, amidst the infirmities of advancing years, he writes: “My days are now drawing to a close, and I have great cause to praise the Lord for His goodness to me and mine. He has borne with my manifold infirmities and shortcomings. … Having now had the trial of twenty-two years as a Disruption minister, I bless the Lord for honouring me to be one of that band of witnesses for Christ.”531
Such testimonies, however, may now be fittingly closed in the words of Dr. Brewster, of Craig, who, like his more celebrated brother, Sir David Brewster, was a man of distinguished talent and culture, and possessed literary powers of the highest order. When he entered the ministry, evangelical religion was at a low ebb within the Establishment, but with all his gifts and talents he threw himself into the work of the Lord, and soon won for himself a high position in the respect and esteem of all classes of the community. Modest and retiring almost to a fault, he had kept himself far from the din of controversy, yet, when the crisis of the Ten Years’ Conflict came, the principles of the Free Church had no more intrepid defender and none more resolute to make all the sacrifices that were demanded.
The circumstances in which he gave his testimony were remarkable. About a year before his death he was attacked by severe illness,532 and brought to the brink of the grave; and while lying in that state a report had gone abroad that he and others of his brethren had repented of having left the Established Church at the Disruption. The crisis of the illness passed; for a time, in the good providence of God, he was restored to some measure of health, and one of the first uses which he made of returning strength was to write and publish, for the benefit of his people, an account of his experience in the immediate view of death. Among other topics, he speaks of the rumour above referred to: “We know what has been said as to our repentings, but I am bound to testify, and am bold to testify, that of such repentings I had no experience. On the contrary, it was one of my chief rejoicings that we had taken such a step. … This I may be said to give as my dying testimony – for I cannot well be nearer death than I was supposed to be, and at least thought myself to be. In that solemn prospect, it was one of my greatest consolations that 1 was dying as a poor minister of the Free Church of Scotland.”
Thus, in the quiet retirement of their country parishes, these honoured fathers of the Free Church prepared to pass away. No doubt or misgiving troubled them as to the path of duty which they had followed in 1843. The voice of the Master who in that day of trial had called them to leave all and follow Him was still in their ears. Not in the heat of controversy or amidst the excitement of public meetings was their testimony given. Mr. Campbell, of Kiltearn, stands as one “ready to be offered,” knowing that the “time of his departure is at hand;” but ere he goes he gives thanks to God for the honour put on him as a witness for Christ at the Disruption. Dr. Brewster lies on what is felt to be his dying bed, and in the calm retrospect, it fills him with gratitude to think of the part he had been permitted to take in connection with the Free Church – gratitude none the less deep because of those privations in the midst of which he must end his days. The short year of restored health passed away, and death came. “He was not, for God took him;” and never was mourning more sincere than when his sorrowing people bore his remains to the lonely burying-ground of St. Skeoch, –
Till the glorious morn of the Advent Day.”533
264 Witness Newspaper, 10th June, 1843
265 Witness Newspaper, 10th June, 1843
266 Disr. Mss. 10, p.7
267 Disruption Reminiscences, &c. &c., p.19, by A. Black
268 Witness, 29th April, 1843
269 Witness, 20th December, 1843
270 Disr. Mss. 4, p.4
271 Disr. Mss. 28th June, 1843
272 Witness, 10th June, 1843
273 Disr. Mss. 37, p.10
274 Witness, 24th June, 1843
275 Parker Mss., Presb. of Caithness, p.2
276 Disr. Mss. 8, p.9
277 Parker Mss., Presb. of Turriff
278 Parker Mss., Dundee, Rev. G. Lewis, p.11
279 Parker Mss., Presb. of Dunfermline
280 Disr. Mss. 5, p.4
281 See further details by Mr. Gemmel in Appendix to A Discourse delivered at Fairlie, &c. &c., 1844. See also Letter to Inhabitants, &c., 1876.
282 Parker Mss., Presb. of Dundee, Rev. Dr. Wilson
283 Witness, 6th April, 1844
284 Witness,10th June, 1843
285 Disr. Mss. 48, pp.11-12, Rev. G. Orr
286 Disr. Mss. 25, p. 3
287 Parker Mss., Presb. of Elgin
288 Witness, 29th November, 1843
289 Parker Mss., Presb. of Tain
290 See Witness, 22nd July, 1845
291 Disr. Mss. 45, p.2
292 Disr. Mss. 27. p.7
293 Disr. Mss. 41 p.12
294 Disr. Mss. 44, p.8
295 Witness, 28th June, 1843
296 Witness, 21st June, 1843
297 Memorials of Dr. Macintosh, p.57
298 Disr. Mss. 20, pp.4-5
299 Witness, 4th November, 1843
300 Life of Hugh Miller, vol.2, p.358
301 Disr. Mss. 31, pp.15-16
302 Parker Mss., Presb. of Caithness
303 Life of Hugh Miller, vol.2, p.384
304 Disr. Mss. 11, p.12
305 Disr. Mss. 13, p.8
306 Disr. Mss. 14, p.2
307 Disr. Mss. 16, pp.6-7
308 Disr. Mss. 31, p.16
309 Memorials of a Quiet Ministry, p.50
310 Life of Hugh Miller, vol.2, p.383. The carrying forth of stools out of the parish church of Cromarty must have been rather a remarkable scene. The time of seat-letting occurred a few days after the Assembly of 1843. Public intimation was made of the day and hour, and the sub-factor was on the spot to receive applications. “He waited in vain. Instead of the crowd who used to fill pews and passages, not a solitary sitter put in appearance. At the end of some hours, as he sat alone, a sound was heard, the shuffling of feet in the passages made it evident that a goodly number of people were entering the church. Nor was the factor disappointed, for all the poor bodies who used to occupy the passages came to take their seats – to take them, however, in a sense very different from the usual acceptation of the term when applied to seat-letting. For, availing themselves of the open doors, many with weeping eyes and aching hearts came to gather up their stools, and take them away from the place where prayer was wont to be made.” – Witness, 7th June, 1843
311 Witness, 18th October, 1843
312 Witness, 18th October, 1843
313 Disr. Mss. 28, p.10
314 Disr. Mss. 21, p.3
315 Disr. Mss. 53, pp.14-16
316 Witness, 21st June, 1843
317 Rev. Dr. Thomson, Paisley, formerly of Yester, Disr. Mss. 57
318 Disr. Mss. 55, pp.2-6
319 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, p.46
320 Witness, 22nd July, 1843
321 Witness, 7th October, 1843
322 Disr. Mss. 54
323 Life of Hugh Miller, vol.2, p.382
324 Witness, 2nd December, 1843
325 Witness, 22nd July, 1843
326 Memorials of the Disruption in Edzell, &c., Rev. R. Inglis, 1872, pp.14-23
327 Paper by Mr. Davidson, Parker Mss., Presb. of Abertarff
328 Witness, 27th September and 7th October, 1843.
329 Disr. Mss. 56
330 Disr. Mss. 35, p.9
331 Disr. Mss. 23, p.4
332 Memoir of Mrs. Coutts, p.391
333 Witness, 19th April, 1845
334 Statement by Principal Rainy, New College, Edinburgh
335 Assembly Proceedings, Glasgow, 1843, p.178
336 Parker Mss., Presb. of Dundee. Paper by Rev. G. Lewis, p.13
337 Witness, 28th June, 1843
338 First Circular, p.2
339 Disr. Mss. 38, pp.2-8, statement by Mr. John Brown, elder, Cairnorrie
340 Disr. Mss. 33, pp.5-8
341 Disr. Mss. 37, p.11
342 The kind-hearted doctor, who is above ninety years of age, took a right view of the matter, in thinking that though for conscience’ sake we have given up the temporalities, we have not left the beloved Church of our fathers.” – Witness, 2nd March, 1844, Dr. Landsborough
343 Disr. Mss. 39, p.5
344 Parker Mss., Paper by Dr. Simpson, p.5
345 Disr. Mss. 53, pp.12-13
346 Disr. Mss. 12, p.6
347 Parker Mss., Presb. of Dalkeith, Rev. D. Brown, p.1
348 Parker Mss., Presb. of Kirkcudbright
349 Disr. Mss. 25, p.4
350 Disr. Mss. 12, p.3
351 Parker Mss., Presb. of Stranraer
352 Disr. Mss. 53, pp.14-16
353 Parker Mss., Presb. of Garioch
354 Witness, 26th June, 1844, and 16th October, 1844
355 Life of Dr. Burns, p.179
356 Parker Mss., Presb. of Dundee. Paper by Dr. Wilson
357 Assembly Proceedings, Glasgow, 1843, p.111
358 Monthly Statement, March, 1844, p.3
359 Witness, 12th July, 1843
360 Monthly Statement, August, 1843
361 Witness, 12th August, 1843
362 Witness, 28th June, 1843
363 Letter from Mr. M’Leish, of Methven, 22nd January, 1877
364 Parker Mss., Presb. of Caithness. Paper by Mr. Davidson, pp.5-6
365 Disr. Mss. 50, pp.37-41
366 “It is but justice, however, to add, that we afterwards got both stones and sand without payment for building the schoolhouse, by applying directly to Lord Willoughby, the proprietor of the surrounding lands. Unfortunately, he was in Italy when we were in our difficulties about the church.”
367 Disr. Mss. 8, pp.3-9
368 Parker Mss., Presb. of Glasgow
369 Assembly Proceedings
370 Witness, 28th December, 1844
371 Memoir, p.170
372 Witness, 14th September, 1844
373 At Latheron, a church seated for 800 is built for £350, another in the North is reported as finished at eight shillings a-sitting. What could architects do within such limits?
374 Witness, 2nd March, 1844
375 Quoted in Witness, 28th August, 1844
376 Witness, 14th December, 1844
377 Witness, 12th August, 1843
378 Disr. Mss. 41, p.12, Rev. W. Grant
379 History of St. George’s, Edinburgh, p.92
380 Disr. Mss. 29, p.14
381 Disruption Reminiscences, &c., by A.J. Black, p.19
382 Disr. Mss. 61
383 History of St. George’s, Edinburgh, pp.90-91
384 Disr. Mss. 33, pp.3-5
385 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, pp.157-158
386 Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers, vol.4, p.557
387 Tenth Communication, p.2
388 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, pp.52-53
389 Memoir, p.288
390 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, p.156
391 Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers, vol.4, Appendix, p.555
392 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, p.155
393 Assembly Proceedings, 1844, p.253
394 Rev. Dr. Robert Buchanan, Finance of the Free Church, p.92
395 Assembly Proceedings, 1844, p.138
396 Memoir, vol.2, p.52
397 Eighth Communication, p.4
398 Memoirs, vol.4, p.553
399 Misses Mure, Warriston
400 Memoir, p.411
401 Captain Shepherd, Kirkville
402 Mrs. Lee, of Rothesay
403 Sixth Communication, p.1
404 Monthly Statement, March, 1844, p.3
405 Assembly Proceedings, 1846, p.100
406 Communicated by Rev. D. Landsborough, Kilmarnock
407 Eighth Communication, p.4
408 Eighth Communication, p.4
409 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, p.157
410 Disr. Mss. 20, p.10, Farr, Sutherlandshire
411 Disr. Mss.1, p.7
412 Sixth Communication, p.3
413 Memoir of Rev. A. Gray, by Dr. Candlish, p.66
414 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, p.54
415 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, p.125
416 Discourse, &c., by the Rev. J. Gemmel, 1844. Appendix
417 Assembly Proceedings, 1845, p.77
418 Witness, 1st March, 1845
419 Assembly Proceedings, Glasgow, 1843, p.81
420 Disr. Mss. 55
421 Assembly Proceedings, 1847, p.126
422 Assembly Proceedings, p.128
423 Assembly Proceedings, 1843, Glasgow, p.170
424 Assembly Proceedings, 1844, p.250
425 Assembly Proceedings, 1844, p.177
426 Disr. Mss. 55.
427 Kirk-session Record, Torphichen
428 Disr. Mss. 23, p.7
429 Parker Mss., Presb. of Selkirk
430 Disr. Mss. 57
431 Disr. Mss. 53, pp.5-7
432 Assembly Proceedings, 1845, p.242
433 Disr. Mss. 57
434 Memorials of A Quiet Ministry, p.40
435 Parker Mss., Presb. of Garioch
436 Parker Mss., Presb. of Garioch
437 Parker Mss., Presb. of Garioch
438 Memorials of Disruption in Edzell, by the Rev. E. Inglis, pp.16,42
439 Free Church Mag., 2, 199
440 Parker Mss., Presb. of Abertarff
441 Home and Foreign Missionary Record, 1872, p.57
442 Assembly Proceedings, 1845. Edinburgh, p.241
443 Life of Dr. Guthrie, vol.2, p.74
444 Life of Dr. Guthrie, vol.2, p.76
445 Captain Burnet deserves to be remembered as one of the very few landed proprietors in Kincardineshire who stood by the Free Church. Grandson of the famous Lord Monboddo, along with some trace of eccentricity, he inherited no small share of the family talent. For a considerable number of years he had openly taken his stand on the side of Christ, and when the Disruption came, it seemed fairly to open his heart. Notices like the following, which appeared from time to time in the local newspapers, showed what he was: “The Deacons’ Court of Laurencekirk have thankfully to acknowledge the grant of £40 from Captain Burnet, of Monboddo, whereby the entire debt of their neat and commodious church has been extinguished. This is but one of the many acts of generosity which this Christian-minded gentleman has done to this and other congregations of the Free Church in this quarter.” Quoted in Witness, 9th August, 1845. Dr. Chalmers, after three days spent at Monboddo in 1843, makes this entry in his diary: “I took leave, with much feeling, of the whole family, children and all. I have been treated with the greatest cordiality, and I owe nothing to the Captain but the utmost gratitude and respect. What a difference it would make in Scotland if we had one such as he within every ten miles of each other.” – Memoirs of Dr. Chalmers, vol.4, p.361
446 Assembly Proceedings, 1846, p.189
447 Assembly Proceedings, 1848, p.271
448 The exact sum in 1874 was £10,723,102, 15s. l1d
449 Witness, 2nd August, 1845
450 Paper by the Rev. Mr. Brown, Parker Mss., Presb. of Dalkeith
451 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.194
452 Disr. Mss. 27, p.11
453 Disr. Mss. 31, p.20
454 Parker Mss., Paper by Rev. Dr. Simpson, Kintore
455 Witness, 4th November, 1843
456 Disr. Mss. 14
457 Disr. Mss. 31, p.17
458 Mr. Stirling, of Carden
459 Alexander Blair, elder, F.C., Gartmore
460 Witness, 29th July, 1843
461 Parker Mss., Statement by Rev. Mr. M’Leod, p.5
462 Life, vol.2, p.384
463 Witness, 23rd September, 1843
464 Witness, 4th November, 1843, Mr. Carment
465 Disr. Mss. 37, p.11
466 Life, vol.2, p.376
467 Assembly Proceedings, 1844, p.229
468 Disr. Mss. 9, p.4
469 Parker Mss., Paper by Rev. Mr. Davidson, p.16
470 Then followed the signatures of Mr. _____ and his son
471 Communicated by the Rev. A. M’Gillivray, Roseburn, Edinburgh
472 Disr. Mss. 40
473 See the full account in the Life of Rev. W.C. Burns, pp.320-321
474 Assembly Proceedings, 1844, p.151
475 Witness, 2nd September, 1843
476 Disr. Mss. 17, p.3
477 Errol. Disr. Mss. 11, p.17
478 Assembly Proceedings, 1844, p.153
479 Life, p.273
480 Parker Mss., Paper by Rev. Mr. Davidson, p.15
481 Disr. Mss. 13, pp.6, 9. Coincidences of this kind have been observed in various parts of the country. At Symington, in Ayrshire, the leading heritor “could not bear the idea of a Free Church being established in the parish against his wishes. He therefore used all his influence, and it was not small, to prevent his tenants and others from joining us, and to defeat our purpose in building a new church. But all in vain. The people who had come out, with few exceptions, steadfastly adhered to us, and the church gradually rose towards completion. The Colonel was often heard to say, as the new church rose before his eyes, that he hoped to God he would never hear our bell ring, and he got his wish, for on the very Sabbath on which the church was opened, he was lying a corpse, having died the previous Friday. His health during the latter part of the year had not been good, and it was generally believed in the parish at the time that the vexation and disappointment he experienced in connection with the Disruption had much to do with undermining and injuring it. Be that as it may, it rapidly declined, so that he was lying cold in death on the day our church was opened, and opened, too, by the very man he had interdicted. The Colonel’s death made a deep and profound impression in the parish, the people were overawed and solemnised by it, and well do I remember how they used to speak to me of it in private, saying, with bated breath, “It was unco judgment like.” – Disr. Mss. 48, p.13
483 Disr. Mss. 62, pp.9-14
484 Assembly Proceedings, Glasgow, 1843, p.167
485 Free, Church Magazine, 2, p.340
486 Parker Mss., Presb. of Caithness
487 Disr. Mss. 1, p.10
488 Monthly Record of Free Church, 1869, p.185
489 Parker Mss., Presb. of Linlithgow. See also Memoir, pp.118, 125
490 Memoir of Dr. Landsborough, p.184
491 Disr. Mss. 16, pp.8-9
492 Parker Mss., Presb. of Lochcarron, paper by Mr. M’Leod
493 Free Church Monthly Record, August, 1871
494 Disr. Mss. 56
495 Parker Mss., Presb. of Glasgow
496 Free Church Record, August, 1873, p.169
497 Parker Mss., Presb. of Tain
498 Parker Mss., Presb. of Stranraer
499 Memorials of the Rev. C. Macintosh, p.56
500 Memoir, p.115
501 Disr. Mss. 57
502 Disr. Mss. 57
503 Disr. Mss. 15, p.4
504 Disr. Mss. 11, p.3
505 Disr. Mss. 41 pp.3-4
506 Memoir of Dr. Duncan, p.300
507 Disr. Mss. 55, p.12
508 History of St. George’s, by D. Maclagan, Esq., pp.95-96
509 Disr. Mss. 1, p.5
510 Disr. Mss. 11, p.13
511 Record of Free Church, November, 1863, p.319
512 Memoir, pp.186, 181
513 Disr. Mss. 16, p.6
514 Disr. Mss. 17, pp.5-6.
515 Disr. Mss. 11, pp.13-14
516 Memoir, p.182
517 Parker Mss., Presb. of Dunfermline
519 For further details, see Memoir of Dr. Duncan, pp.322-325
520 Memorials of the Disruption in Edzell, &c., p.17
521 Disr. Mss. 16, p.12
522 Testimonies in favour of the Free Church, &c., by the Rev. J.A. Wallace, Hawick, pp.71-72
523 Memoir, vol.2, p.71
524 Disr. Mss. 55, p.24
525 Memoir, p.187
526 Memorials of a Quiet Ministry, p.61
527 Disr. Mss. 29, p.22
528 Pastoral Recollections, &c., by the Rev. J.A. Wallace, pp.115, 123
529 Disr. Mss. 37, Part II, pp.21, 24
530 Memoir, p.334
531 Parker Mss., Presb. of Dingwall
532 Parker Mss., Presb. of Brechin
533 See lines in Free Church Magazine, 4, 144